Over 200,000 veterans of military service live and work in Houston/Harris County, making it home to one of the largest populations of military service members and families in the nation. Credit for this is due to the many available jobs, affordable housing and access to many institutions of higher learning.  In spite of this, twenty-two veterans lose their lives to suicide every day in our nation or nearly one per hour.  Research continues to show that veterans deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan may experience a variety of issues that can compromise their successful return to their families, jobs, and community and that the behavioral health needs of veterans returning from war fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan are not being adequately met by our current systems of care.

Since 2007, the Houston-Harris County Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative (VBHI) at MHA of Greater Houston has employed strategic and collaborative community engagement and trainings in support of MHA of Greater Houston’s overall goal of shaping the mental health of people and communities.  The VBHI impacts the community on numerous levels and strives to ensure that our veteran’s behavioral health needs are met.  As the Regional Coordinator for the State of Texas’ Military Veteran Peer Network (MVPN), our mission is to connect service members, veterans, and their families to local, state, and national resources.  As the mentoring arm for Harris County Veterans Treatment Courts, we engage justice-involved veterans with peer to peer support, health and wellness, and activities and connect them to supportive services through our dedicated and highly trained volunteers.  In addition to serving our local courts, the VBHI provides behavioral health education to volunteer veteran court mentors statewide through its Veterans Court Advocacy and Mentoring Program (VCAMP) in order to better serve Harris County veterans and increase capacity for veteran treatment courts across the state.

Pictured From Left to Right: Twila Carter, The Astros Foundation, with MHAGH CEO Renae Vania-Tomczak and Veterans Behavioral Health Director, Christy Chatham