MVCN Magazine by and for CaregiversFall 2015
Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Supports Military and Veteran Caregivers
By Ashley Allison
One of the donor partners of the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network is the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF), whose mission is to promote health equity and improve health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious disease and illness. One of the BMSF signature initiatives is Mental and Health and Well-Being ~ Care and Support for Veteran and Their Families.
As part of this important initiative, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) received a grant to bring their 20+ years of best practiced peer support to the military and veteran caregiver community with the creation of the MVCN Online Community. The MVCN Online Community launched at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes Caregiver Summit in Washington, DC in May 2015.
THE MVCN Online Community offers a safe, secure space for caregivers to share with other military and veteran caregivers who experience similar life challenges, and to help each other overcome challenges such as isolation, stress and poor health identified in the RAND report Hidden Heroes America’s Military Caregivers (2014).
In September 2015, MVCN was honored to participate in the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation Grantee Summit on Mental Health and Well-Being. At the summit, invited organizations heard more about the findings RAND’s study from its co-author, Dr. Terri Tanielian.
MVCN Director Dr. Lynda Davis provided her expertise and passion on the subject of peer support, outlining the collaborative approach employed by the MVCN to bring together non-profits, providers, supporters, faith communities, corporations, DoD, the VA and local communities to holistically support caregivers. Dr. Davis indicated the importance of not duplicating resources or reinventing the wheel, but rather of using impact-driven, evidence-based research and best practices drawing on the TAPS model, to provide structured social support to military and veteran caregivers.
Melissa Comeau, caregiver to her veteran husband and an MVCN staff member, offered a compelling reading of one of her poems from her book, Sleeping With the War, during her presentation as a “voice from the field.” Melissa shared her personal caregiving journey and elaborated on the feelings of isolation she shares with many other caregivers, while expressing her desire to connect caregivers to the support they need and deserve through MVCN.
BMSF Director Catharine Grimes did a phenomenal job facilitating the participation of the innovators, specialists, and experts at the summit, including leaders from the VA and DoD, as well as Military and Veteran Service Organizations, including Operation Family Caregiver and Blue Star Families. The latter are teaming up to provide coaches to empower military caregivers to navigate local services and learn how to better cope with and handle the long term challenges of caregiving.
The MVCN is honored to be included in the BMSF Summit, a shining example of collaboration and the benefits of effective partnerships within the military and veteran caregiver community.