Round Table Discussion Summary
America’s Warrior Partnership’s Four Star Alliance met last Monday on April 12 at 2 pm ET for a round table discussion. An outcome of the event was further collaboration between Four Star Alliance members to share best practices as well as overcome barriers and gaps in services related to adaptive sports, therapeutic recreation and wellness programs.
Four topics identified by members to discuss collectively was the following: 1. Ensuring veterans thrive through participation in wellness programs; 2. Suicide prevention being a quality of life problem as opposed to a mental health problem; 3. Collaboration to focus on best support for veterans, families, and caregivers; and 4. Gaps in research related to adaptive sports, therapeutic recreation and wellness programs. Hugo Lentze, the Chief Strategic Partnerships Officer, with Travis Manion Foundation led the charge in discussing the trend of veterans thriving from participation in wellness programs. Hugo passionately talked about how programs offered by Four Star Alliance members are essential to the continuum of care for veterans. Travis Manion Foundation for example has a program that encourages veterans to thrive by leading through their strengths. The small group breakout discussion mainly focused on what happens after events. The biggest question raised was how do you continually support thriving veterans through meaningful engagements. Best practices mentioned were building no pressure relationships and working collaboratively with partners to bring more value to the veterans you engage. The Travis Manion Foundation and Heroes on the Water partner to take veterans on fishing outings.
Keeping veterans engaged in community events is important to the overall success of improving their quality of life. Veterans that participate in events such as those offered by Four Star Alliance have a higher level of hope, are able to adapt, and are able to bounce back according to our annual Community Integration survey.
The second discussion addressed during this round table meeting was about changing the dialogue around suicide prevention being a mental health problem. Suicide prevention is a quality of life issue. Jim Lorraine during his recent testimony to the VA Senate Committee on veteran mental health and it resonated with some Four Star Alliance members. The Founder and President of Eagle Rock Camp, Lynn Marilla, took to this statement as an important topic of discussion for the round table. She mentioned changing the dialogue on mental health in support of her programs supporting military families through the transition process. Eagle Rock Camp feels marriage wellness is an essential protective factor to mitigate suicide among veterans. During the small group discussions members talked about the importance of addressing all areas of the veterans life to prevent suicide. This includes the involving the entire family unit. The discussion also talked about changing the dialogue with hopeful terms such as saying prevention as opposed to intervention and wounded as opposed to broken. America’s Warrior Partnership’s Community Integration model emphasizes supporting veterans in 8 areas to improve their quality of life and ultimately end veteran suicide. These areas include participation in purposeful activities, nurturing strong relationships, and encouraging spiritual wellness through programs offered by the Four Star Alliance. Adaptive Adventures Executive Director, Chelsea Elder, emphasized collaboration within the community as an important topic of discussion during the round table. Adaptive Adventures partners with the community to ensure veterans have access to resources pertaining to adaptive sports, therapeutic recreation, and wellness programs. Chelsea talked about veterans needs extending beyond the events they host. It isn’t rare that Adaptive Adventures finds themselves coordinating access to new equipment, repairs, and recreation groups to ensure veterans can continue to participate in sports on their own time within their community. Veterans seeking access to Four Star Alliance programs often find themselves on wait lists because the demand is high. Adaptive Adventures combats this issue by providing veterans referrals to other programs and coordinating other means to participate. Chelsea’s small group discussed being creative with your service delivery and partnerships to ensure veterans have access to programs. Veteran services should not work in silos because it can leave to a veteran falling through the cracks. Collaboration may look like coordinating with a local bike shop to help a veteran obtain appropriate adaptive gear or calling another adaptive sports program to see if they have spots available. The group also mentioned partnering with America’s Warrior Partnership’s Network (The Network) to assist with coordinating services when a veterans need cannot be met locally or if the need is beyond the scope of your organization.
The Community Integration survey reveals the majority of veterans, even those who are thriving, are seeking access to four or more resources. Collaboration is important to providing holistic support.
The last gap discussed was address by Jasmine Townsend, Ph.D., CTRS, CARSS-II, who is an Associate Professor and Fellow as well as the Recreational Therapy Program Coordinator with Clemson University. Jasmine has been a supporter of Four Star Alliance since inception and is an advocate for encouraging research and evaluation of adaptive sports, therapeutic recreation and wellness programs. Jasmine started the conversation by addressing the lack of research and the challenges of program evaluation. The small breakout group discussed the barrier of limited training and access to resources for nonprofits. Collecting data can be a challenge because it is hard to identify what to collect and what to do with the data once you collect it. The findings can also be daunting. Partnering with Universities is a way to overcome these challenges. Additionally it is important to understand evaluation is about the journey. It can take years to adopt a culture of evaluation and mature in this area but evaluation is important to be able to speak about program impact. America’s Warrior Partnership works in collaboration with Four Star Alliance members to advocate for adaptive sports, therapeutic recreation and wellness programs as an important part of holistically serving transitioning veterans, their families, and caregivers. Through research and evaluation, together we are able to understanding the need, demonstrate outcomes and improve programs. In summary, the Four Star Alliance round table brought members together to discuss important topics around adaptive sports, therapeutic recreation and wellness programs. These programs are an essential part of increasing protective factors to reduce suicide and improve the quality of life for veterans. The America’s Warrior Partnership Community Integration model emphasizes increasing veteran access to these types of programs within their community. Based on data collected, the majority of veterans are seeking access to purposeful activities and connecting with others. Furthermore, we have found that veterans who regularly participate in events are able to adapt and bounce back. The Four Star Alliance is committed to increasing access to quality adaptive sports, therapeutic recreation and wellness programs across the country. We look forward to furthering this conversation at the symposium on October 25-27, 2021. In the meantime, members can help us improve programs by sharing our Community Integration survey which opens on April 22.
If you would like to register as a Survey Community Partner, please complete this form: https://www.tfaforms.com/4889907 We cannot do this grand mission without each and every one of you. We value your partnership as Four Star Alliance members. Thank you for all that you do for veterans, their families, and caregivers.