AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving's (RCI) signature military caregiver program will expand to Virginia, North Carolina, and Los Angeles, California to provide more help to service members and veterans.
Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) is free, confidential, and tailored to each individual family. It is the only program like it serving military families.
Since 2001, the United States has sent more than 2.5 million men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 50,000 have been wounded. Beyond those visible injuries, nearly one-third of returning service members have a mental health condition or experienced a traumatic brain injury.
"Our military has been on the battlefield for longer than ever before, and there are consequences to that," said RCI's executive director Dr. Leisa Easom. "When they come home, especially with injuries, they lean heavily on their husbands and wives, parents, battle buddies, whoever can help take care of them. And that takes a lot out of a person. Being a caregiver is not easy."
Many spouses, siblings, and parents are thrust into the unexpected role of caregiver when their loved one comes home. Operation Family Caregiver provides caregiver "coaches" who teach military families the skills they need to overcome unforeseen challenges and cope more effectively with problems they never imagined. The program can be provided in person or via Skype.
Operation Family Caregiver launched in 2012 with catalytic funding from Johnson & Johnson. After an initial pilot launch in 2012, it has expanded in each subsequent year and earlier this year announced a partnership with Blue Star Families that will add two additional sites.
With the latest expansion, Operation Family Caregiver will be serving military families in 12 locations by the beginning of next year, including:
• Johnstown, Pa. • Houston, Texas
• San Diego, Calif. • Washington, D.C.
• Killeen, Texas (Ft. Hood) • San Antonio, Texas
• Buffalo, N.Y. • Hampton Roads, Virginia
• Tallahassee, Fla. • Northern Carolina
• Augusta, Ga. • Los Angeles, Calif.
In North Carolina, OFC will be implemented by Easter Seals UCP, which operates across the state but will focus particularly on central to eastern North Carolina. This part of the state is home to high populations of active military and post 9/11 veterans. Nearly 200,000 veterans are estimated in the counties surrounding Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Fort Bragg, and Pope Air Force Base.
Located in Americus, Ga., the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving is a division of Georgia Southwestern State University. RCI was established in 1987 in honor of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a GSW alumna who serves as president of the Institute's Board of Advisors.