In light of the coronavirus pandemic around the globe, Combined Arms is taking a proactive approach to support our veteran community, and the community in Houston. By combining multiple thought leaders, and leveraging the strength of our 70+ member organizations and state of the art technology platform, Combined Arms has prepared a plan for intake, targeted social outreach, prevention of social isolation, medical center support, financial assistance, neighborhood leadership and accountability, and overall wellness for communities affected by COVID-19.
Phase 1 of our COVID-19 Community Response Plan started on Friday March 13, 2020 when specific communications were sent directly to our 72 Member Organizations and 200+ Community Leaders updating them on the pandemic and encouraging everyone to practice good social distancing by work remotely while we sanitize the Center and leave a small team to receive walk-ins. All stakeholders were encouraged to utilize the Combined Arms Portal and EchoLink for all new clients coming into the system themselves or being referred org-to-org.
Phase 2 of our COVID-19 Community Response Plan that was sent out on Monday March 16, 2020. The basics of this are three-fold:
- Reach out to the thousands of veterans and family members in our system who are over the age of 50 via text message asking them if they need assistance in accessing resources if they have been affected by COVID-19. Hundreds have responded and our Intake Team has wrapped their arms around them and ensuring they get care.
- Our Technology Team has sent a targeted email, text, and social media campaign to the most at-risk veteran population asking if they have any of the CDC linked symptoms and directing them to their primary care physician and relevant testing center locations and VA health resources. Additionally, the Intake Team is asking each client they engage with via phone if their case is related to COVID-19 and utilizing VA Screening criteria and the World Health Organization (WHO) 5 Wellbeing Index trends for all clients entering into the system in order to identify at-risk veterans.
- Ensure our Member Organizations are communicating on a consistent basis each week to identify gaps and challenges in the marketplace of resources/services being provided by looking at the data trends with the Intake Team. So far, the only gap identified is the availability of financial assistance resources because several institutional NGOs who deliver them are shut down. We have been able to open up additional state grant resources (over $7MM committed yesterday in a special Texas Veterans Commission session) to bolster our other Member Organizations who deliver these services so they can effectively fill said gaps.
- Combined Arms combed through our database of over 15,000 veterans and family members to identify those with a historical need for financial assistance. We also identified those that are unemployed, or underemployed at this time. We’ve partnered with Endeavors to deploy financial assistance to the veteran community that may be affected by corporate and business shutdowns, layoffs, and organizational pauses due to the current situation. Endeavors will work to triage, vet, and administer financial assistance to those families in need.
- Successfully advocated on behalf of 4 Member Organizations who already receive Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) for Commissioners to approve release of $7MM in increased state grant funds in order to provide financial, rental, and utility assistance resources.
- Convert all CAX and Member Organization in-person events to Virtual Events and encourage and incentivize veterans to attend and participate online in order to combat social isolation.
- The Marketing Team is launching content and information to all clients and subscribers, and advertising virtual events and wellness activities to combat social isolation via email, text, and social. Combined Arms is taking major actions to accelerate information sharing, best practices, virtual social connectivity, and intake referrals to provide stability, service, and support during the pandemic.
Phase 3 of our COVID-19 Response Plan that empowers veterans and family members to take an active role in supporting the more vulnerable / at-risk populations in their immediate neighborhood was sent out to all subscribers on Thursday, March 19, 2020. This call to action also asks for those in our network with healthcare/medical skills and experience as a request from the Texas Medical Center. These individuals will be called upon to serve in front-line healthcare roles should a surge of cases hit Texas.Healthcare Industry/Medical Center Support
Combined Arms is working with the Texas Medical Center to help identify veterans with various levels of healthcare skills, education, and experience in order to volunteer to support potential future healthcare delivery needs should COVID-19 cases continue to increase in the region. This is by no means an indicator that there is currently a need for more healthcare professionals but we are helping the Texas Medical Center plan for any potential need in the future. Since distributing our outreach, we have had over 300 veterans with healthcare experience volunteer to mobilize and support medical facilities.Community Engagement: Neighborhood Leaders
Combined Arms is activating our veteran and volunteer community to take on the leadership role of “Neighborhood Leaders”. The Leaders will be the point person for their street, neighborhood, or apartment complex, with the primary role of COVID-19-relevant-communication, health and hygiene advocacy, and neighbor accountability. Combined Arms held its first Neighborhood Leader check in. The meeting was divided into three parts: announcements, structured 1-minute updates from the Neighborhood Leaders, and Q&A.
The trending needs of the neighborhoods concerns are regarding employment and food.
As a result, we’ve asked our Social Services Team to prepare three short training videos on how to:
Refer neighbors to the Food Bank
Refer neighbors to Unemployment Benefits (workers and businesses)
Refer neighbors to Mental Health resources (veterans and civilians)
Phase 4 of our COVID-19 Response Plan involves Combined Arms partnering with Harris County Public Health to combat the spread of COVID-19 by mapping exposure. The "Contact Tracing Program" is calling on Combined Arms to mobilize their medical veteran volunteers to call and interview those who contracted COVID-19 and find out who else may have been exposed. In doing so, a comprehensive mapping of cases will help the county box in the pandemic.This is a "hands on" fight against the spread of the Coronavirus, and Combined Arms is proud to mobilize our volunteer veterans and support Texas during these turbulent times.
Phase 5 of our COVID-19 Response Plan involves expanding our methodology and technology into the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and El Paso areas and many other rural parts of Texas now more than ever because they lack the sufficient coordinated services model that the Greater Houston Area has developed since 2015. We aim to change that immediately by continuing to develop our existing relationships in Austin and El Paso in order to fully develop their burgeoning collaborative ecosystems. We also aim to begin extending our innovative collaborative social services model to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and many rural areas throughout the State of Texas.
Be sure to check out our CEO, John Boerstler as he interviews Dr. Laura Marsh, at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Discussion on Mental Health during COVID-19
Stay safe out there!