Older Veteran Support Program: The community feedback period for this idea began on 8/8/2018 and ended on 10/6/2018. *STATUS UPDATE*

What is the problem that needs to be addressed? Please describe how it is related to mental health.

Elderly veterans (over 55) are 69% of the veteran population and 11% over 65 have a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (twice the rate in the general population.) Older veterans are more likely to have little or no social support and have a higher prevalence of mental distress, death wishes, and suicidal ideation. We need to identify these isolated veterans and provide socialization programs and support to prevent suicide.

Why is this a concern for Orange County? What can Orange County and other counties learn from this project?

OC has the fourth largest veteran population in the state and 7th largest in the county. In OC we have 115,000 veterans and the elderly veteran population is growing faster than any other group. The challenge is finding these veterans and enrolling them in creative socialization programs. Other counties can use the programs developed and techniques for finding the isolated veterans.

What is currently being done to resolve this problem in our county and throughout the United States? If applicable: Is it working; why or why not?

The VA has Geriatric Patient Aligned Care Teams or GeriPACTS but they lack personnel and resources to reach all of this population and often are unable to find veterans not enrolled in VA Healthcare. In OC only 30,000 with OC addresses are enrolled or 26% of the total population. New programs must address the other 64% of the veteran population.

What is new or different about this project idea? Please describe how this differs from what is already being done (Question 6). Please list any research that was done on this topic.

Finding and enrolling the isolated veterans will require imagination and creative marketing. Developing social programs which attract the veteran and keep him or her involved is new.

What is the project idea? Please describe how this project will operate.

The provider will outreach to the veterans and enroll them in the program. The goal will be finding 2000 isolated veterans and developing a socialization program while referring them as needed to other collaborative partners for additional supportive services.

Additional Information

Additional reference material:

  • Aging Veterans: The Intersection of Homelessness, Mental Health and Physical Fraility by Michael Blecker, Swords to Plowshares.
  • Why of Veterans’ Suicide by William Collins and Brian Adkinson with the VA Healthcare System.
  • The co morbidity of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidality in Vietnam Veterans by T.L.Kramer, J.D.Lindy, et al (1994)
June 7, 2018


What is the mental health component of this project?

What are the specific learning objectives for this project?
(The OAC Staff offers the following guidance regarding learning objectives: “The broad objective of the Innovative Component of the MHSA is to incentivize learning that contributes to the spread of effective practices in the mental health system. What is it that you want to learn or better understand over the course of the INN Project, and why have you prioritized these goals? How do your learning goals relate to the key elements/approaches that are new, changed or adapted in your project?”)

Finding socially isolated veterans will be a challenge. What agencies do not realize is that most veterans (the majority in fact) are not enrolled in VA Healthcare. Most veterans are not involved in veteran service organizations and most do not realize that they are eligible for services as veterans. As this population ages, they will reach out to other community resources but most of those will not know how to address veteran issues such as dormant PTSD and service related cancers and disabilities. What will be learned are how to outreach, what marketing programs work and what type of events will attract these older veterans. In addition, assessment techniques will be developed to identify those are risk of depression and suicidal ideation.

In a recent meeting with the Director of the VA Hospital in Long Beach, he agreed that an outreach program to older veterans was necessary and offered a public-private partnership that would coordinate with VA personnel to find these at risk veterans.

Innovations Team

Thank you for your idea submission. Upon review and discussion, it was determined that this idea can continue moving forward at this time for further consideration and development. The Innovation team is currently exploring options for a community planning and engagement meeting where potentially viable ideas can be further discussed with local community members. Status updates will be posted as they become available.

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