The VA can’t do it all. CVN can’t do it all either. One of the primary reasons Mr. Steve Cohen decided to invest and support the Cohen Veterans Network of clinics was his recognition of distinct gaps in the services available to post-9/11 veterans and their families.
There are many organizations out there professing to serve and support veterans with needs ranging from housing, to education, to social skills building; just to name a few. It is a very important part of my role as Outreach Manager at the Cohen Clinic in Philadelphia to ensure that we are aligning ourselves with strong community partners who do what they say they will do, and do it when they say they will. There are lives affected, not only by the services we provide, but also by the referrals we make. I believe that “knowing our lane” is one of the signature traits of our network. This allows us the room we need to be the best at what we do, and encourages us to look for other resources when we are not what the individual needs or wants.
Our strong partnerships in Philly ensure that the client and their family members experience referrals as an extension of our care. As an example, we may refer someone to the Military Assistance Project (MAP) for legal assistance. Our partnerships are developed in such a way that the client experiences the exchange as if MAP is just an extension of the Cohen Clinic at Penn. Our work in the field alongside MAP staff, hosting them for a lunch and learn to present to our entire clinic staff, and meeting with all of their staff in their space, serves to foster a relationship enabling us to jointly deliver this sort of experience. It also provides us with the opportunity to gauge their organizational commitment to serving the military/veteran population, ensuring the same attention to detail, quality, and timeliness we expect of our own staff. Without the close relationships we have forged with our community partners, this level of service and client experience would not be feasible.
To illustrate how this concept impacts our clients directly, I would love to share Bruce’s story. While this is a real case served at the Cohen Clinic at Penn, the individual’s name has been changed to protect his/her privacy.
Bruce came to our clinic for mental health services. He was experiencing depression and anxiety, which our staff recognized as related to his negative discharge status. He was unable to access veteran benefits and, in his current mental state, was also struggling with obtaining and maintaining employment. Bruce needed help beyond the scope of what our clinic could provide in-house. Helping veterans or military family members is not just about the services we provide, but also about the community relationships we develop to secure the services we cannot provide. Bruce needed legal and employment help. Both would prove instrumental in getting Bruce back to better. It is tireless work to vet partners and make sure our clients receive the best once we refer them, but these efforts pay dividends every day in the lives of the veterans and families we serve. Serving our clients is a holistic process that requires partnerships—in our world it really does take a village.
By Pete Freudenberger, LCSW
Outreach Manager, Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania