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Operation Family Caregiver Expanding into States with Large Military Concentrations

Oceanside CA — In collaboration with Wounded Warrior Battalion West, Southern Caregiver Resource Center’s (SCRC) Operation Family Caregiver program is offering a support group for spouses/significant others of post-9/11 service members and Veterans with PTSD and/or TBI.

The Support group is for spouses/significant others of post-9/11 service members and Veterans with PTSD and/or TBI. The group is open and no registration is required. No official diagnosis of PTSD or TBI is necessary. This group is free of charge and meets the third Thursday of every month from 1700-1830 hours (5-6:30pm) at Wounded Warrior Battalion West, Camp Pendleton. The Hope and Care Center, Building #27833 (off of Santa Margarita Road).

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s (RCI) signature military caregiver program, Operation Family Caregiver, will announce its expansion into three new regions with high concentrations of returning military personnel at its annual summit, October 24, 2014.

Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) is a proven, evidence-based program that provides support to the families of newly returning service members and veterans. Specially-trained coaches teach military families the skills they need to overcome unforeseen challenges and cope more effectively with problems they never imagined. Caregivers who complete the program are more satisfied with their lives, have fewer health complaints, and are generally more prepared to take care of their families.

“After a year, we are seeing people come through the program, and it is easy to see how much more equipped these caregivers are to provide the right kind of support to their husbands, wives, and children,” said RCI’s executive director Dr. Leisa Easom. “We know the program works, and we just need to make it available to more families.”

Seeing OFC’s promising results, but given limited resources, RCI has developed a deliberate and strategic plan to extend the program into the 10 states with the highest concentration of post-9/11 veterans, active military, and guard/reserve. The three new sites – Houston, Texas (2nd in the U.S.); Augusta, Ga. (5th); and Tallahassee, Fla. (6th) – continue bringing OFC into states with the highest need. These additional sites will nearly double the footprint of the program when they begin serving caregivers in early 2015.

Operation Family Caregiver launched in 2012 with catalytic funding from Johnson & Johnson. The program was piloted in Johnstown, Pa., and expanded to San Diego, California.; Killeen, Texas (Fort Hood); and Buffalo, N.Y., in 2013. It can be provided in person or via Skype.

Under the auspices of the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, the Harris County Area Agency on Aging (HCAAA), together with Care Connection Aging and Disability Resource Center, will provide OFC to caregivers of veterans throughout Houston and the 12 surrounding counties. The program is made possible in part by federal funds, which are distributed by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. In Augusta, near Fort Gordon, OFC will be implemented by the Augusta Warrior Project. With approximately 66,000 veterans, including 6,600 post-9/11 veterans, the greater Augusta area stands to benefit greatly from the program’s services. The OFC program in Tallahassee will provide a new example for how OFC can be situated in a university setting. While it will serve the entire community, OFC will reside at the Florida State University (FSU) College of Social Work. Nearly 400 military personnel and veterans, as well as almost 600 of their dependents, are currently enrolled in FSU; and nearby Tallahassee Community College and Florida A & M University add about 650 additional veterans.

This announcement will be made at RCI’s 27th Annual Summit and Training Institute, which will take place at Georgia Southwestern State University on Oct. 24. First Lady Rosalynn Carter will join leaders from the White House’s Joining Forces initiative, the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, AARP, and other organizations to discuss solutions to America’s caregiver crisis.

Nearly one-third of the adult population in the United States – 66 million people – are caregivers, and many of those care for former military service members. The summit aims to provide best practices and collaborative pathways for professional and family caregivers in the United States.

At the summit, the family of Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg will offer insight. Remsburg, who was first introduced to the public during the 2014 State of the Union Address, was deployed 10 times before being injured in 2009 in Afghanistan. After three months in a coma, he has suffered debilitating physical and mental injuries and endured dozens of surgeries. His stepmother, who, with Cory’s father, has cared for Cory since his injury, will speak of the tremendous challenges for caregivers to overcome, for both the person they are caring for and themselves, and of the benefit of such programs as OFC and other family caregiver resources.

The San Diego group will be facilitated by Crystal Bettenhausen, MSW/MSG, SCRC Family Consultant. For more information about this group or other services, contact Crystal Bettenhausen, MSW/MSG, (Family Consultant, SCRC) at (858) 268-4432 or cbettenhausen@caregivercenter.org or Christine Wiese (Family Readiness Officer, Wounded Warrior Battalion West) at (760) 763-9056 or christine.wiese@usmc.mil.