Variety of new mental health outreach and support programs, new mentorship program part of expanded role for Department of Veterans Services
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of Department of Veterans Services James Hendon today announced a major expansion of programs offered through the Department of Veterans Services (DVS) that will help the City make huge strides forward in its mental health outreach, and treatment efforts for veterans citywide. The Mayor made the announcement at a Gracie Mansion breakfast reception in honor of Veterans Day.
Today’s announcement includes a suite of programs that will revamp the City’s mental health efforts for veterans and touches on a wide variety of mental health components, ranging from peer support and training for mental health professionals to holistic mental health treatments and legal services. Included in the announcement is Service2Service, a joint DVS-NYC Service mentorship program that connects veterans and AmeriCorps alumni with mentors in City government to help them find careers as civil servants.
“As the son of a World War II veteran, I know the men and women who serve our country can carry a tremendous pain that is still felt years or decades later,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “As the only city with our own Department of Veterans Services, New York City is here to help its veterans shoulder the load, and today that means providing them with new tools to look after their mental health. I’m proud of the successes DVS has achieved so far, and I know this announcement will lead to further victories for our city’s veterans in years to come.”
“Far too many veterans struggle to transition back into civilian life following their service, and it's our duty to make sure they feel our support when they return from active duty,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. ”Our heroes deserve nothing less and through partnerships with ThriveNYC as well as local and federal agencies, we will continue to address the stigma around veteran’s mental health by providing them with more of the tools they need for long-term health and success.”
"Properly observing Veterans Day means not only thanking our veterans for their service today, but committing ourselves to have their backs the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year," said J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor of Strategic Policy Initiatives. "Today's announcement makes clear that whether it comes to addressing the crisis of veterans homelessness or ensuring our veterans have appropriate tools to address their mental health needs, New York City and the Department of Veterans Services stands with its veterans every single day."
"Too many of the tragedies that befall our veterans after coming home -- whether it's a struggle with addiction or the crisis of veteran homelessness -- are linked to the lack of appropriate tools to address their mental health challenges. So I can think of nothing better we can give our veterans on this important day than a full toolbox to help ensure their needs are taken care of," said Lt. Col. James Hendon, Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs. "DVS stands ready to help our City's brothers and sisters who have served in the armed forces take care of their mental health needs as they return to civilian life."
Several new mental health programs were part of today’s announcement, including:
Mental Health Support: DVS will recruit more vetted mental health partners to its VetConnectNYC referral service. This will allow the department to scale up all its mental health initiatives, including the VetsThriveNYC Core 4 whole health model, a community and peer-based approach that engages veterans both in clinical settings and through lower-stigma methods such as peer support and cultural engagement.
Legal Services: The City will help provide grants to legal services organizations that will help veterans challenge their discharge status, including LGBTQIA+ veterans given less than honorable discharges due to their orientation or gender identity. With an honorable discharge status, more veterans will be able to receive VA services previously denied to them, including mental health care.
PTSD Treatment: In collaboration with the Research & Recognition Project, a national leader in reconsolidation of traumatic memory (RTM) protocol, the City will recruit licensed mental health professionals for training in RTM, a PTSD treatment method created through working with 9/11 survivors.
Holistic Services: Through public-private partnerships, the City will support veteran-specific holistic treatments, including service animals, meditation training, yoga, and expressive therapy. Through coordinated partnerships with VA medical centers and veterans services organizations, DVS will encourage veterans and their families to seek out additional therapies to complement their mental health care treatment.
Peer Support: Thanks to a $300,000 State grant, the City will create a peer-to-peer program for Veterans facing the challenges of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. The program will be administered through the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project.
Interagency Mental Health Task Force: The City will join a new Mental Health Advisory Council with local, state, federal and private partners through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Additionally, the Mayor and Commissioner Hendon this morning unveiled Service2Service, a new joint City mentorship initiative through DVS and NYC Service. Service2Service will aid NYC veterans and AmeriCorps alumni by connecting them with City employee mentors. The program aims to build relationships between service-minded New Yorkers and empower mentees with the network, knowledge, and resources to continue a legacy of service with the City. The inaugural class of Service2Service participants will include 40 City employees, 20 veterans, and 20 AmeriCorps alumni for a six-month mentorship program.
“Veterans and AmeriCorps alumni share a deep commitment to our communities,” said NYC Chief Service Officer Anusha Venkataraman. “NYC Service is so proud to partner with DVS on Service2Service to create a space where these civic leaders can make connections, develop professionally, and discover the next step in their legacy of service.”
Today’s announcements came at a breakfast reception in honor of Veterans Day at Gracie Mansion, where Colonel Ivan Monclova, combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Commander of the 1st Marine Corps District in Garden City, NY, was the keynote speaker. The Mayor continued his observance of Veterans Day by speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Veterans Day Parade.
ABOUT THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ SERVICES:
The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) strives to improve the lives of all veterans and their families, regardless of discharge status. DVS operates as a centralized hub able to put veterans at the center of all its efforts, coordinating services with a range of agencies at the City, state, and federal level, as well as through public-private partnerships. Its mission is straightforward: to foster purpose-driven lives for NYC service members, veterans, and their families through effective connections with the NYC community; targeted advocacy at the local, state, and national level; compassionate service, ensuring that it is easier for veterans to access services and benefits they’ve earned. DVS believes veterans are civic assets whose strength and demonstrated commitment to public service help NYC thrive.