Veterans’ Health

Grantee Name

New York Cares; Veterans Outreach Center; Western New York Heroes

Funding Area

Veterans’ Health

Publication Date

December 2023

Grant Amount

New York Cares: $50,000
Veterans Outreach Center: $25,000
Western New York Heroes: $25,000

Grant Date:

December 2021 – May 2023

In 2021, military veterans experienced a unique period of acute mental distress while mortality rates for this population increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 was triggering for many and came on the heels of a violent and chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. After the Taliban takeover, 90% of Afghanistan war veterans with a history of mental illness experienced new or worsening mental health symptoms, including depression and thoughts of suicide. At the same time, the New York-based Veterans Crisis Line experienced a 98% increase in text messages and a 40% increase in online chat requests, reflecting an exceptionally difficult and traumatic period for post-9/11 veterans.

In response to these complex challenges, NYHealth awarded grants to New York Cares, Veterans Outreach Center, and Western New York Heroes to provide culturally appropriate mental health services and peer support programming, as well as screenings and referral support to veterans across New York State during an exceptionally challenging period of time. NYHealth also awarded the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Center a series of related grants to increase veterans’ access to telemental health services across New York State.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Under these grants, New York Cares, Veterans Outreach Center, and Western New York Heroes:

  • Conducted targeted outreach activities and contacted more than 30,000 veterans across the State to help reduce social isolation and increase connectivity to mental health services and peer support programs.
  • Hosted dozens of in-person and virtual events designed for veterans and their families, connecting more than 1,000 individuals in need to vital resources that address food insecurity and a need for behavioral health services.
  • Intervened in 222 crisis episodes and provided intensive care management services for veterans identified as being at high risk of suicide or self-harm.

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak, NYHealth was already focused on expanding mental health care and peer support programs for military veterans with the hopes of addressing the high rates of veteran suicide. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, there was growing concern that a “perfect storm” of circumstances would increase veterans’ risk of suicide. Fortunately, data show this did not come to fruition in 2020; however, the second half of 2021 was a traumatic period for many veterans. NYHealth was able to be responsive with our grantmaking to expand crucial services during a time of great need.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A