Rush UMC gets $45M grant to expand mental health services for veterans

Military health
Rush University Medical Center has just received the largest donation in its history to grow its mental health services for veterans. (vadimguzhva)

Rush University Medical Center has received a $45 million gift—the largest in its history—from the Wounded Warrior Project to expand its mental health services for veterans.

The grant will allow Rush to significantly expand its Road Home Program, which provides mental health services for veterans and their families, to reach 5,000 veterans and their families in the next five years, the hospital announced.

"This next phase ... allows us to take those funds and actually do twice as much work and help twice as many veterans," Will Beiersdorf, executive director of Road Home, told FierceHealthcare. "We've proven, in a lot of respects, that that therapies and tools and things we do are making a big difference."

Part of the funds will be used to grow the hospital's Intensive Outpatient Program, which provides concentrated post-traumatic stress disorder treatment to veterans over the course of a three-week outpatient care program. The Wounded Warrior Project previously gave a $15 million gift to the program.

Will Beiersdorf Rush UMC
Will Beiersdorf (Rush UMC)

Beiersdorf is a veteran himself, having served with the Army in Operation Desert Storm and with the Navy immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. That perspective helps paint a stronger picture of what the veterans in the program are going through, he said.

"I've seen firsthand the challenges that men and women face," he said.

More than 260 veterans have completed the IOP treatment since Road Home launched in 2014, and the additional grant will allow for 1,500 more veterans to access to the program, according to Rush.

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Beiersdorf said the program offers a range of different therapies that equal about a year in care for a more sporadic treatment plan. Veterans in the Intensive Outpatient Program are provided group and individual therapy, nutrition, mindfulness and wellness and art therapies, and they come to the program from across the country.

"We really try to give them a whole curriculum or whole schedule of services that will help them deal with their post-traumatic stress," Beiersdorf said.

Veterans undergo the program in two cohorts, he said. One group is made up of men and women with PTSD, while the other includes veterans who have PTSD and went through sexual trauma while in the military.

The Road Home Program coordinates all of the IOP participants' housing and transportation needs over those three weeks, he said. Rush also provides mental health services to veterans through its Road Home Program at no cost, he said, which prevents potential money worries from exacerbating anxiety.

Beiersdorf said that once a veteran completes the program, Rush coordinates directly with his or her primary care doctor—both through the Department of Veterans Affairs health system and private providers—and will follow up at regular intervals to monitor progress.

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And the program has shown positive results so far. For some patients, Beiersdorf said, depression scores after the program decreased by 40% compared to before the intervention.

Rush launched the Road Home Program as part of the Warrior Care Network, which also has similar programs at Emory Healthcare, Massachusetts General Hospital and UCLA Health.

The Road Home Program also collaborates regularly with Chicago's three VA hospitals.

"We have really learned a lot from each other to develop programs really geared toward veterans and their family members," Beiersdorf said.