Non-profit of the Year Nominee
1. What is your mission and vision?
Mental Health Association's (MHA) longevity is a testament to the quality of its programs, as well as its capacity to provide strategic and innovative services. Today, MHA promotes mental wellness and supports those with mental illness by sponsoring and implementing education, advocacy, and community service programs. MHA offers direct service programs for people across the lifespan--including children, teens, adults, veterans, and older adults. MHA's community education efforts, offered throughout the DC region, aim to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and increase understanding of mental health issues. Serving Together, MHAs program serving members of the military and veterans, also provides education and direct service across the DC region, while encouraging community-based collaboration. Serving Together believes through their service and sacrifice, service members, veterans, and their families have earned the right to easily access local resources and services. To do so, Serving Together offers a Veteran and Family Peer Navigator to provide one-on-one support to veterans seeking resources, such as employment, housing, financial assistance, or benefits support; a website to identify local, state, or national services easily and effectively; community education on topics relevant to providers serving the military and veteran population; and local Collaboratives to bring together local providers for networking opportunities.
2. How does your organization achieve its mission?
Serving Together relies on a collective impact model to achieve its mission of providing quality, local resources to military, veterans, and their families in the Washington, DC region. Serving Together cannot succeed without the support, advocacy, and collaboration from the community. To achieve the goal of a coordinated community, Serving Together implements the following:
- Education to professionals and organizations on military culture competency: To serve the military and veteran community effectively, organizations, programs, and professionals must understand the unique language, hierarchy, and values that a service member or veteran brings. In 2015, 97% said the Serving Together training enhanced their professional expertise.
- Mental Health crisis training to non-mental health professionals working with the military and veteran community: With nearly 20% of service members of Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and with the statistic of 22 veterans (of all eras) completing suicide per day, Serving Together feels it is our duty to provide a tool-kit of education on how to identify mental illness and how to handle a mental health crisis.
- One-on-one support to military, veterans, their families, and case managers in need of assistance: Serving Together's Veteran and Family Peer Navigator works directly to find the resource(s) the veteran needs, such as employment support, financial assistance, or housing programs. Serving Together values its ability to understand what the veteran may need before they even know what to ask.
- Facilitation of local networking meetings for professionals and committed community members: Networking meetings, also known as Collaboratives, allow providers to share program and event information with the goal of increasing referrals to other local organizations and decreasing duplication of services. The intent is to create a coordinated community of programs so that veterans are able to easily receive services or a warm hand-off to appropriate programs.
3. How have your programs directly impacted the regional community?
Serving Together has directly supported more than 400 service members, veterans, family
members, and case managers by providing them with necessary resources and information.
Serving Together has found housing for homeless veterans living in their vehicles; helped keep a
veteran and their family in housing by identifying local financial aid for rent; and connected a
widow to programs to pay overdue utility bills. Serving Together has impacted countless other
veterans and their families through continuing education training and community workshops.
4. What inspires or drives your team to stay committed to your mission?
Serving Together stays committed because we are the community we serve. We are military spouses and veterans who are passionate about making sure that those who have served our country are not given the run around when trying to find services they need. The Serving Together team has experienced the frustration of endless 1-800 phone numbers; poor customer service; and the aggravation of not being able to find what you want when you need it. Every day we talk with a veteran or a family member and hear them say,"I wish I would've know about you sooner," we are reinvigorated to find those veterans who need us before crisis hits.
5. What advice would you give to other nonprofits trying to make an impact in their community?
Collaboration. Collaboration. Collaboration. Building and utilizing a strong foundation of community-based partnerships is essential to achieving effective, efficient, and enduring results. Nonprofits can then use these partnerships to continually identify and address ongoing needs in the community; reduce duplication of ineffective programs; and increase the communication among quality programs to fill gaps.