Veterans’ Health

Grantee Name

Military Family Center at NYU Langone Health School of Medicine

Funding Area

Veterans’ Health

Publication Date

August 2023

Grant Amount

$50,000 (December 2021);
$50,000 (June 2021);
$105,000 (March 2020)

Grant Date:

April 2020 – December 2022

The number of veteran suicides throughout the country has risen steadily since 2001. In addition, suicide rates for veterans are nearly 70% higher than rates for their civilian counterparts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the mental health of New Yorkers, including veterans, who have experienced high rates of job loss and social isolation. Compounding the challenge, there is a shortage of mental health providers equipped to treat veterans. The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Center’s (MFC) services have been effective in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms and in increasing quality of life—results that are comparable to patients who received face-to-face care. In 2020, NYHealth awarded MFC a grant to expand its no-cost telemental health services as a cost-effective way to overcome barriers in access to care. In 2021, NYHealth awarded MFC a second grant to continue providing free, high-quality telemental health services to veterans in hard-to-reach, under-resourced areas outside of New York City and increase its existing caseload capacity.

The second half of 2021 was an exceptionally difficult and traumatic period for the post-9/11 generation of veterans. 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. In 2021, NYHealth awarded a third grant to MFC, as part of a larger project with New York CaresWestern New York Heroes, and Veterans Outreach Center, to provide community-based mental health and peer support, as well as screenings and support service referrals to veterans across New York State.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Under these grants, MFC:

  • Conducted strategic outreach to veterans outside of the metro New York City region—including the Hudson Valley, the Capital Region, Rockland County, and the Finger Lakes—to connect them with resources such as food, housing, and employment services.
  • Expanded the reach of its mental health services to veterans in the aforementioned areas, with a particular focus on rural and minority veteran populations, as well as Fort Drum and West Point, which have a high concentration of veterans.
  • Enrolled nearly 1,000 veterans in culturally competent mental health care services, which resulted in clinically and statistically significant reductions in symptoms stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as increases in patients’ self-reported quality of life.
  • Cultivated relationships with trusted veteran service organizations in rural parts of New York State to create 90 referral partners and increase access to mental health care.
  • Triaged its intake process and expanded capacity for phone screenings. These improvements led to MFC connecting with veterans within 24 hours of their initial outreach and seeing approximately half of new patients within two weeks.
  • Shared the successes of and lessons learned from these projects through more than a dozen conference presentations and publications.


What started as a modest investment to expand mental health services for military veterans grew into a multi-year approach as the external landscape shifted. The COVID-19 pandemic coincided with MFC’s first grant, and MFC was able to reach more veterans in need during a time of isolation. In 2021, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan created a spike in worsening mental health symptoms—the Veterans Crisis Line experienced a 98% increase in text messages and a 40% increase in online chat requests after the hasty withdrawal of troops, leading up to a record call volume in March 2023, which marked the 20th anniversary of the war in Iraq. MFC responded accordingly to provide community-based mental health and peer support to adapt to veterans’ evolving needs.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A