North Shore-LIJ's Commitment to Veterans

Support provided by Mildred and Frank Feinberg, the Rosen Family Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and key local funding partners help North Shore-LIJ address the needs of military personnel and their families.

The Office of Military and Veterans’ Liaison Services ensures returning veterans and their families receive the psychological and emotional care they truly need and deserve.

Long Island has a proud tradition of military service. In fact, with 150,000 military veterans in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island has the tenth-largest veteran population in the country. These veterans come home and work just as hard as they did in the military. They become business and community leaders and they inspire their neighbors with their work ethic and love of their country, but the transition home isn’t always easy.

Many of these great Americans are suffering from common reactions to the intense and extreme conditions of combat they experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Combat-stress-related conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, sleep disorders, irritability and headaches, all of which can lead to relationship strains, affecting family members as well.

In 2009, North Shore-LIJ established the Office of Military and Veterans’ Liaison Services to lead and coordinate an array of programs dedicated to the needs of military veterans and their families. Directed by Andrew Roberts, a West Point graduate, former Army captain and combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the program oversees all our health and wellness resource services provided to military service members, veterans and their families.

As someone who served in Iraq and struggled with his own reintegration, Roberts stresses the importance of making a solid effort to engage returning veterans in the variety of services provided at North Shore-LIJ. Through community outreach, they have been able to help veterans like Craig Washington, an Air Force veteran who completed two tours in Afghanistan, cope with the emotional wounds of war. When Washington, who now works as a patient support manager at The Zucker Hillside Hospital, returned after five years of service in the Air Force, his family noticed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. They referred him to the Florence and Robert A. Rosen Family Wellness Center for Law Enforcement and Military Personnel and Their Families at North Shore-LIJ, which addresses the clinical care needs of veterans and their families. It has counseled nearly 8,000 people since opening in 2006. Washington says, “The Rosen Center sees a lot of people like me who have gone overseas and come back faced with difficulties.” Designed to complement other available government programs, the Rosen Center is able to provide no-cost and confidential counseling with the support of the Rosen Family Foundation and the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation. Washington still uses the Rosen Center and affirms, “Without it I’d be trying to face everything that I went through by myself.”

Roberts explains that the “can do” and “never quit” attitude of the veteran population often makes it difficult for returning military personnel to seek help. However, with sustained philanthropic support, North Shore-LIJ continues to expand its veteran initiatives providing care to this deserving population. Serving as the director of the Office of Military and Veterans’ Liaison Services since 2011, Roberts has witnessed the effectiveness of therapy not only for returning service persons but also their families.

He says, “We are able to help people that you might not immediately think would be emotionally impacted by a war. Consider that every wounded veteran has a family that is impacted by the injury. Every service member who is killed in action has a family that mourns the loss. Every veteran who comes home with PTSD has an effect on his or her loved ones. The stresses of these situations and many others like them have a tremendous impact on people, but we can help these wounds heal at the Rosen Center.”

Stories like these have spurred North Shore-LIJ to do its part and help the hundreds of thousands of veterans who struggle with the transition from war back into civilian life. “As a health system, we take pride in doing whatever we can to take care of our veterans and show our deep appreciation for the sacrifices they make on behalf of us all,” says Michael J. Dowling, president and CEO of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Recently, the Office of Military and Veterans’ Liaison Services established a unique partnership with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its Northport VA Medical Center to create a clinical center in Bay Shore to open fall 2012.

Named the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families, it will offer treatment for both veterans and family members under one roof with structured “cross-talk” to ensure optimal family-oriented outcomes. It is believed to be a first-of-its-kind health center for veterans and their families. The Northport VA and North Shore-LIJ have collaborated to develop an innovative service model.

Craig Washington (left), an Air Force veteran who now works at The Zucker Hillside Hospital as a patient support manager, chats with Andrew Roberts (right), former Army captain and combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who currently serves as the director of the Office of Military and Veterans’ Liaison Services.

The building will be divided down the middle: the center’s civilian side is entered by a door on the left, leading to North Shore-LIJ clinicians available to veterans’ families; the VA staff will provide similar services to military personnel on the right. The two teams will confer and work together in conference rooms accessible to both. Roberts asserts that the Unified Behavioral Health Center’s unique program model “has the potential to be replicated nationwide and change the way America cares for our veterans and their families.”

Roberts adds that the program could not have moved forward without a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and matching foundation support from local funding partners. Robert Goldberg, president of the Fay J. Lindner Family Foundation, stepped forward as the key local funding partner anchoring this grant. The foundation also secured additional funding from four other family foundations: the Berlin Family Foundation, the Jack and Dorothy Kupferberg Family Foundation, the Randi and Mark Jacobson Charitable Foundation, the Martin B. Greenberg Foundation and one anonymous donor. Roberts also expressed gratitude for the generosity of Mildred and Frank Feinberg, stating that without their commitment to the development of the facility, “we may not have been able to build this.” In recognition, the North Shore-LIJ component of the program will be named the Mildred and Frank Feinberg Division. Through their support, these groups are forging a new model of service delivery to the men and women—and their families—who have so nobly sacrificed for our country.

A therapist at the Rosen Family Wellness Center provides counseling to a veteran and family member.

North Shore-LIJ is focused on providing personalized care and augmenting its veteran services, including a partnership with the Northport VA to provide women’s health services to veterans. Additionally, its employment program actively recruits returning military personnel. North Shore-LIJ is also creating a mentor program to pair newly hired veterans with mentors to help ensure a smooth transition into the North Shore-LIJ Health System. It is only through community support and philanthropy, Roberts says, that we can “ensure that military veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much are truly welcomed home with real services and real programs that make a difference.”

 

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