Military Caregiver Support Program adds 3 new locations

Published 1:21 pm Friday, September 18, 2015

AMERICUS —The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s (RCI) signature military caregiver program will expand to North Carolina, Virginia, and Los Angeles, California. With this latest growth, Operation Family Caregiver continues to pursue its strategy of serving families in states with the highest concentration of service members and veterans.
Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) is a proven, evidence-based program that provides support to the families of newly returning service members and veterans. It is free, confidential, and tailored to each individual family. It is the only program like it serving military families. Since 2001, the United States has sent more than 2.5 million men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 50,000 have been wounded. Beyond those visible injuries, nearly one-third of returning service members have a mental health condition or experienced a traumatic brain injury.
“Our military has been on the battlefield for longer than ever before, and there are consequences to that,” said RCI’s executive director Leisa Easom, Ph.D. “When they come home, especially with injuries, they lean heavily on their husbands and wives, parents, battle buddies, whoever can help take care of them. And that takes a lot out of a person. Being a caregiver is not easy.”
Many spouses, siblings, and parents are thrust into the unexpected role of caregiver when their loved one comes home. Operation Family Caregiver provides caregiver “coaches” who teach military families the skills they need to overcome unforeseen challenges and cope more effectively with problems they never imagined. The program can be provided in person or via Skype.
Operation Family Caregiver launched in 2012 with catalytic funding from Johnson & Johnson. After an initial pilot launch in 2012, it has expanded in each subsequent year and earlier this year announced a partnership with Blue Star Families that will add two additional sites. With the latest expansion, Operation Family Caregiver will be serving military families in 12 locations by the beginning of next year, including: Johnstown, Pa.; Houston, Texas;              San Diego, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; Killeen, Texas (Fort Hood);                         San Antonio, Texas; Buffalo, N.Y.; Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia; Tallahassee, Fla.; Northern Carolina; Augusta, Ga.;                                                     Los Angeles, Calif.
Johnson & Johnson has partnered with RCI for nearly 15 years, and its support makes the latest expansion of OFC possible. Since its launch, OFC has helped more than 150 caregivers from across the country. Caregivers who have completed the program report being less depressed and more satisfied with their lives, have fewer health complaints, and are generally more prepared to take care of their families.
Like all OFC sites, the new programs will be trained by RCI but managed by local organizations. In North Carolina, OFC will be implemented by Easter Seals UCP, which operates across the state but will focus particularly on central to eastern North Carolina. This part of the state is home to high populations of active military and post 9/11 veterans. Nearly 200,000 veterans are estimated in the counties surrounding Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Fort Bragg, and Pope Air Force Base.
The OFC program in Virginia will be a collaboration between the Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health (CEALH) and the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program (VWWP), a program of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS). The program will specifically target two regions of the state: Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, which together are home to more than 425,000 veterans.
Southern Caregiver Resource Center (SCRC), has been successful in operating OFC in San Diego County, California, and will expand its reach to Los Angeles County, home to 325,000 veterans—36,000 of whom are post-9/11 veterans.