A Twenty-First-Century Model For Delivering Mental Health Care To Veterans

by Derek Coy, Miguel Ocegueda

Understanding the unique needs that veterans have and the challenges that they face in accessing care, NYSHealth partnered with the Headstrong Project to expand behavioral health services across New York State. What was appealing about the Headstrong Project was its innovative model: rather than hiring clinicians and creating costly brick-and-mortar clinics, Headstrong assesses and recruits best-in-class clinicians, handles intakes, matches clients with therapists, and directly reimburses clinicians for their services—at no cost to the veterans—while relying on preexisting infrastructure to keep costs low.

Using this approach, Headstrong quickly achieved a strong presence in New York City when it launched in 2012 and has expanded to more than twenty-three cities around the United States since its founding. However, while the Headstrong Project had been successfully implemented in New York City, it had not yet ventured into areas of New York State outside of the City. Given that more than two-thirds of veterans in New York State live outside of New York City, NYSHealth was eager to support the spread of this innovative model. NYSHealth’s first grant to Headstrong focused on expanding its services to the four cities in New York with the largest veteran populations: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany.

Learning from this original expansion and understanding the complexities of providing mental health care to veterans in rural areas, NYSHealth gave another grant to Headstrong in early 2018 to expand services to more than a dozen less-populated counties in between the larger urban areas. In total, NYSHealth has awarded Headstrong $150,000 to expand its clinical network, with additional funders providing direct reimbursements for services provided by clinicians who serve Headstrong clients.

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