Nearing it’s one year anniversary, the Be Connected program has matched over 1,200 veterans, service members and their families with resources to help mental health.
“It’s a suicide program that benefits veterans, service members and their families,” says Wanda Wright, director of Arizona Department of Veteran Services. “The idea is that we can resource any of those individuals to provide resources early before something terrible happens down the road and hopelessness happens.”
They have recently teamed up with AARP to help educate family caregivers and connect veterans to services. Arizona Director of AARP Dana Kennedy says they are focusing on educating their members to make sure caregivers know about this program. Oftentimes, she says, the veteran won’t be the one to reach out, but the family who notices something wrong.
“You put your profile into the network, and it will give you 200 plus criteria and drive you toward the correct resources you might need,” Wright says. “It doesn’t have to be a veteran, it can be a provider or family member, anyone who is trying to support a veteran or service member can go onto that website.”
Kennedy says the most important piece of the program are the 3,000 trained navigators who are educated to help those who are looking for resources. Every navigator goes through an online or in-person training. They’re taught about anything from peer support and suicide prevention to educating employers on how to treat their veteran employees, Wright says.
The program began in April 2017, and had four people reach out to them in the first month. Last January, they’ve had more than 200 veterans come to them for assistance. Wright says their growth is mainly through word of mouth as little real advertisement has been published.
AARP is only one of many outside organizations that is helping the Be Connected program. If other organizations are interested in becoming involved, they can call the Department of Veteran Services or go to their website.
For more information on the program, visit beconnectedaz.org.