Periodically, the Temple University Collaborative will highlight a person, program, or agency that we have worked with that strives for community inclusion for individuals with serious mental illnesses.
The Community Recovery Connections Team (CRCT) at the Bedford, Massachusetts Department of Veterans Affairs is a peer based support program that “helps veterans build bridges to wellness.” They provide peer support for veterans that are transitioning to the community. We recently sat down with Mr. Tony Russo, who was a driving force behind the movement as well as Dr. Charles Drebing, and Dr. Jay Gorman to talk about their Veteran’s Coffee Socials. The extremely successful Veteran’s Coffee Social movement aims to connect veterans with each other and community resources with the goal of reintegrating them fully into the community.
The Veteran’s Coffee Socials are groups throughout the state that meet regularly to support one another in reintegrating into the community. The coffee socials give prime opportunities for veterans to learn about community opportunities and the benefits these opportunities. They are meant to reduce social isolation, show veterans what they may be missing, and attempt to link veterans with community partners. The socials allow veterans to be included into the community just like everyone else. All veterans are welcome at groups and play a role in how groups operate.
After starting with a handful of veterans coming to these community events, numbers have grown tenfold and are continuing to rise. The veteran’s social groups are also spreading, and weekly events are sprouting up all over the state and are even beginning to venture beyond state lines. What was 7 groups in 2015 is now 22 groups. Tony Russo, who was instrumental in starting the coffee socials, is now consulting others who are starting their own groups. He has also followed the work of the Temple University Collaborative and has been greatly influenced by the Collaborative’s work and has consulted with Dr. Salzer while assisting in developing these initiatives. We here at the Collaborative are thrilled to witness the success of the coffee socials and look forward to more exciting initiatives promoting community participation.
For more information, find the Vets Coffee Social on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vetscoffee/ or send them an email at VETSCSMA@GMAIL.COM
Special thanks to Tony Russo (pictured below), Dr. Charles Drebing, and Dr. Jay Gorman for taking the time to share their program and progress with us.