Wisconsin receives $1.2 million federal grant to help homeless veterans

MADISON (WITI) – The Departments of Health Services and Veterans Affairs have announced Wisconsin has received a $1.2 million federal grant to assist homeless veterans living in northern Wisconsin who have behavioral health needs by referring them to needed services and housing.

The grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will provide $400,000 annually for the next three years to fund the efforts of the Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program. This new program is a joint project of DHS and WDVA.

“Veterans who live in rural areas are both more likely to experience behavioral health needs and are less likely to have ready access to behavioral health resources. The Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program takes a resourceful approach to better address the needs of homeless veterans battling a mental illness and substance use disorder in a large, under-served part of Wisconsin," Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades said.

“This partnership with the Department of Health Services will allow the WDVA to provide more effective outreach to homeless veterans in rural and sparsely populated areas as it relates to behavioral health and substance abuse issues. What a great opportunity for WDVA to partner with federal, state, county and veteran organization resources in bringing mental health wellness programs and services directly to our veterans and their families," Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos said.

According to the Wisconsin Homeless Management Information System, more than half of Wisconsin’s homeless veterans live in the northern part of the state. In their lifetime, analysts estimate 50 percent of these individuals will have a mental illness and 70 percent will have a substance use disorder.

The Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program divides 47 counties in the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin into four regions, with an outreach and recovery specialist assigned to each area. The outreach and recovery specialist, who will be a veteran, will work with behavioral health in each county, and homeless and veterans groups to encourage referrals of veterans who will be screened for the program. Once enrolled in the program, the outreach and recovery specialists, supported by a clinical coordinator, will use evidence-based approaches to work with the veterans who are homeless to ensure they have stable housing, connect them to proper treatment, follow-up to ensure that the treatment is continual and effective, and provide the appropriate recovery supports for the veteran to be successful. The program is expected to begin serving veterans in January 2015.