By Debbie Gregory.
Three initiatives have been launched in the state of New Hampshire, all in an effort to assist the medical community better serve their military and veteran population.
The first initiative will impact the 10 community facilities run by the NH Dept. of Health and Human Services. This landmark effort will position a dedicated staff member at each facility who is committed to providing resources and specialized services to veterans, military service members and their families. Their goal is to provide individualized care in order to streamline their services.
Commissioner Nick Toumpas confirmed that according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, no other state has developed this type of program soley for military personnel, veterans, and military families.
The other two other initiatives focus on health education, and are currently in place across the state. Easter Seals NH has created a program called “Ask the Question,” encouraging health care providers and other services to ask patients whether they have served in the military during their preliminary screening of patients. This information is extremely helpful when planning a whole-patient approach to health care.
The other initiative furthers the ability to offer better care by helping health care providers learn more about resources available for their veteran patients. “Dare Mighty Things” is a group based out of Portsmouth, NH, that gives providers a better understanding of veterans’ unique needs and available resources specific to those needs. One positive example of this program’s efforts was shared by patient Nick Tolentino, scheduled for surgery at Exeter Hospital. Tolentino had a violent wake up experience after surgery while in the military. He admitted he was reluctant to ever share this with civilian clinicians, primarily due to the stigma he felt it carried. Tolentino acknowledged what haunts him and many veterans alike; the guilt of surviving war when friends at his side were killed.
“You’re always fighting the stigma,” he said. “You were fighting it over there. You’re fighting it when you come home.”
Tolentino’s experience at Exeter was calm and successful thanks to the communication between the surgical team and the support staff at Dare Mighty Things.
New Hampshire lacks a full-service VA hospital, yet has the nation’s fifth highest percentage, a full 11 percent, of veterans. The Manchester-based facility works closely with neighboring Vermont, whose facility in White River Junction closes the gap of their patients’ needs. Directors of both facilities have had positive outcomes to the new initiatives, indicating that the collaboration between government, military and civilian agencies has been successful.
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NH Leading the Way for Veterans: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory