Give an Hour announces $2 million grant to implement Community Blueprint for military families

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G. Mullen calls investing in the mental health and resilience of our troops and their families “fundamental to our readiness”

By Communications Staff

June 23, 2011— The Bristol-Myer Squibb Foundation has awarded Give an Hour a $2 million grant to fund two demonstration projects of the Community Blueprint, a collaborative, community effort to address the needs of veterans and military families on a local level. The projects will be developed in Norfolk, VA and Fayetteville, NC. Give an Hour, a partner of the American Psychological Association (APA), announced the grant at a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery on June 14.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michale G. Mullen and Give an Hour founder Barbara Van Dahlen, PhDGive an Hour, founded by APA member Barbara Van Dahlen, PhD, is a nonprofit organization that has created a national network of licensed mental health professionals. Volunteer providers agree to give one hour of their time each week to provide free counseling and other mental health services to military members, veterans and their families who are experiencing the psychological effects of their deployment, combat and reintegration into society after serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since its founding in 2005, more than 5,600 organization volunteers have given nearly 37,000 hours.

Van Dahlen is one of the principle architects of the Community Blueprint, which was developed to help local community leaders assess and improve their community’s support for veterans, service members and their families. By better synchronizing and coordinating services between government, nonprofit and other stakeholders, the Community Blueprint improves services across eight areas: behavioral health, education, employment, family strength, financial/legal problems, homelessness, reintegration and volunteerism. More than 60 organizations contributed to its development, including the American Red Cross, Points of Light Foundation and the National Military Family Association.

In his keynote address at the announcement ceremony, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G. Mullen expressed his strong support for this type of work, telling the audience that investing in the mental health and resilience of our troops and their families is “fundamental to our readiness…It undermines [the military] if we are not able to care for those who serve.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are two examples of the military’s “invisible wounds,” Mullen said. In addition, “a lot of what we’ve been through is invisible to our nation. [Those outside the military] don’t know about the stressors. They support us but they don’t have the in-depth knowledge of what we’re going through.”

“In the long run, we need to invest in preventative efforts,” Mullen said. “We must start to build resilience from day one in the military—not just in members, but families.”

Mullen lauded community efforts to support the military, noting that “sharing information is key.”

Additional speakers included Time magazine reporter Mark Thompson and Deputy Secretary of Defense Rob Gordon. Military advocate Deborah Mullen, who is married to Admiral Mullen, spoke about the need for mental health care and research. For those with family members in the military, she said, “there is worry day-in and day-out. Families live with the cumulative effects of that worry. We need the help of mental health providers. We have spouses who [go to hospitals for depression and] receive prescriptions and no follow-up because no follow-up is available. We have elementary school teachers who don’t understand what students [with deployed parents] are going through. We need to understand what it’s like to live a life of transition. We need to be more mindful we are doing right by these families.”

APA Practice Executive Director Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, and APA Deputy Executive Director for Professional Practice Randy Phelps, PhD, also attended the ceremony. As a partner to Give an Hour, the APA Practice Directorate helps spread the word about the organization, its mission, commitment and the process by which psychologists can volunteer their services to military personnel and their families.

Others at the ceremony lauded Give an Hour and its volunteer providers for their positive impact. Afghanistan combat veteran Jennifer Crane, who returned from service with chronic PTSD, thanked her therapist and Dr. Van Dahlen for restoring her hope. “It’s been eight years since I came home,” Crane told the audience. “I didn’t know how to re-integrate. I was broken… There are hundreds of thousands of veterans like me...If you are a health care provider, donate your time…We need you. If you are a veteran, service member or family of military personnel, seek help and you will find it through this amazing organization.”

Learn more about Give an Hour.

Learn more about the Community Blueprint.

Read the June 14 ceremony program.