For this episode of Community Conversations, we spoke with Michael Johnson from Partners for Telehealth Solutions, a non-profit that helps provide assistance to veterans in the community.
Q: Tell us, just an overall view of your organization.
A: Partner for Telehealth [Solutions] represents me as a vet. I’m a vet – I did 20 years in the infantry, and what I did – I looked at the transition I went through when I went out of the military, and how can I help other veterans further their future, and also do the transition coming out of the military into the civilian world. So I came up with a non-profit called Partners for Telehealth Solutions. We do home health care, we do pharmacy matchmaking – medication matchmaking – we do veteran claims, and the most important – we do mental health, and with mental health we build different programs in the mental health field to help veterans be able to cope with all of the things that come from a war.
Q: So, one of the things that your organization works with is veterans and the transition that they go through.
A: Yes. That transition point is very critical because the veteran and in the military, he is taught what to do, how to do it. He knows his schedule from 18 months to three years out. And in that process, once he’s separated, he no longer has that structure in his life. So, without that structure in that life, that means he has to pick [himself] up. If he got a Purple Heart because of the battlefield wounds, or he got internal wounds or external wounds, all that stuff plays a difference in his life on transition, so it makes it hard. You go in as a young man, you come out pretty wounded or whatever, and in that transition, you’re trying to put all this back together to go back into the civilian world. So, in transit, a lot of them are lost, because they’re dealing with things that they weren’t prepared for. And that’s when we come along.
As a vet, I recognize that. Over 20 years in the infantry – I recognize what a veteran needs, so what I decided to do is ‘How can I help those veterans do that transition a whole lot easier?’ So by building these programs to make veterans aware of all of the state programs, all of the programs that are right here in Prince William County that veterans are not aware of. We spend millions and millions of dollars building programs, but we don’t spend the amount of money to make sure that every veteran gets the information.
Q: So what kind of programs are available – without listing every single one of them – but what programs are available that a lot of veterans don’t know about?
A: Well they don’t have programs to talk about the state programs for homeless, the state programs for veterans who cannot pay his bills, cannot pay his rent. Veterans are struggling every day because they don’t have the amount of money. If a veteran had the same health insurance that a civilian had while he was in the military, he’d be a millionaire.
Q: So, one of the things that you also do is – it has to do with mental health issues. So, you have a telehealth phone program – tell us about that program there.
A: That telehealth program – the telephone program – is the program that helps veterans be able to talk to a physician. What we plan on doing, come around September or August, is rolling out 1,000 phones that we’re going to give veterans with apps. To give veterans these phones, they can do live video conferences with a physician. We don’t take care of the coverage or the bill. We’re gonna monitor the phones, we’ll set up the appointments for them, but we need community help to help us help the veterans.
Q: And so what does that do? Is this going to be anything that has to do with veterans that are getting incarcerated, or through the court system, or is this just strictly if they have mental health needs, as far as just help coping?
A: I’m glad you asked that question. That question there is critical. Veterans go to jail for mental health issues that they may not [be] aware of. A lot of them are not on their meds, so if we can give the courts a phone to mandate that this veteran talk to his physician and track his appointments, that keeps veterans on their meds, that keeps them healthy. Because a lot of times they don’t have the resources, they don’t have the money nor do they have the funds, or they don’t know about how to go about getting help.
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