Medically Tailored Meals for Veterans with Behavioral Health Issues
Healthy Food, Healthy Lives
December 10, 2021
Medically tailored meals are meals recommended by health care providers to individuals with severe illness, customized to meet their complex dietary and medical needs, and delivered to their homes.
A growing body of evidence shows that medically tailored meals improve health outcomes and generate cost savings (e.g., reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations) for patients with primary diagnoses such as diabetes and cancer. In recent years, God’s Love We Deliver and other providers of medically tailored meals have seen an increasing number of clients who have a behavioral health issue as a co-morbid condition. Behavioral health disorders such as substance use, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can interfere with healthy eating, leading to unreliable meals; reliance on convenience foods; loss of food traditions; manipulation, punishment, or rewarding with food; and shame or stigma in using food assistance. God’s Love has achieved some early success contracting with a health and recovery plan that manages physical health, mental health, and substance use to provide medically tailored meals to people with behavioral health diagnoses, and it seeks to further expand services to these individuals, including veterans with PTSD. In 2021, NYHealth awarded God’s Love a grant to plan and test a model to provide medically tailored meals to veterans facing food insecurity and living with PTSD in New York City.
Under this grant, God’s Love will develop an operational model with strong referral relationships to home-deliver at least 100,000 meals to 200 veterans. It will also establish a working relationship with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its health plan, Tricare, to support a sustainable reimbursement stream for medically tailored meals. God’s Love will partner with the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services to create new referral relationships with VA medical centers based in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, as well as with the VetConnect and Unite Us referral platforms. God’s Love dieticians will conduct a nutrition assessment for each veteran, create an individualized meal plan and delivery schedule for clients, and provide nutrition counseling. In partnership with the VA medical centers, God’s Love will also collect and assess clinical, process, quality-of-life, and food security outcomes to inform future efforts to expand medically tailored meal services to more veterans. God’s Love will use data from this project as part of its long-term strategy to persuade Tricare and other health plans to cover medically tailored meals for individuals with behavioral health issues.