Spotlight feature on Be Connected Arizona’s 2019 veteran resource benchmarks
Be Connected Arizona is a program that works to better connect veterans, service members and their families to the services, and support available to them. Founded in 2017, Be Connected operates across the state and in partnership with a number of other organizations.
The organization is intended to take an “up-stream” approach when intervening. In this way, while Be Connected does connect people to crisis services when needed, their goal is to provide information, resources and connections before a crisis occurs.
Matthew Speer and Megan Phillips, both graduates of Arizona State University, now work as faculty researchers in the College of Health Solutions. They are working to help facilitate some of the work alongside Be Connected, and to provide data to better help propel the organization as a whole.
“I was first brought into the Be Connected team as a graduate student placed in the late Senator John McCain’s office, who was instrumental in advocating for Arizona as a pilot site for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act passed in 2015. Since the program launch in 2017, Be Connected has fielded over 8,000 support line calls, provided resource navigation to over 5,000 individuals, and trained 4,000 military and veteran resource navigators,” Megan explains.
Be Connected is a joint effort by the Veterans Health Administration, the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, the Arizona Coalition of Military Families, and a number of other organizations that work to provide life-changing services to veterans in need. The Veterans’ Crisis Line is one such organization, providing counseling, emergency services, and support to veterans facing mental health crises.
“We often describe Be Connected as a suicide prevention program that’s not really about suicide. We know that there are many stressors that can contribute to a mental health crisis such as losing your home, becoming unemployed, or struggling with addiction. The program aims to serve as a one-stop shop for any veteran, service member, or family member in need to get connected to the many existing resources across the state,” Megan continues.
Arizona has a large population of veterans, service members and their families. Roughly 600,000 live in the state currently. A critical aspect of the Be Connected mission, is connecting veterans to health care services. This connection to health care, the mission states, is fundamental in reducing the risk of suicide.
A 2017 Arizona Veteran Survey showed that 1 in 3 veterans and family members do not know of at least one number to call to get help in a time of crisis. Be Connected is actively working towards increasing the number of Arizonans that know who, and where to call in a crisis situation. 1 in 7 Arizona veterans reported concerns about losing their current housing, and 1 in 3 Arizona veterans have had traumatic experiences that put them at risk for elevated chronic physical and mental health conditions.
“The 2017 Arizona Veteran Survey offered a critical window into the lived experiences of Arizona veterans, service members, and their families. Our goal is for the upcoming 2019 Arizona Veteran Survey to similarly serve as a powerful resource for programs like Be Connected to better tailor their efforts to the needs of this community,” Matt explained.
Another survey is expected to be conducted sometime in the next several months, with results released following. The implementation of Be Connected since the last survey was conducted could positively impact the results of a new survey by providing direct access to services, resources and information.