The Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative has launched a new text-messaging platform to help veterans as they transition back to their local communities.
Available 24 hours a day, Text2Vet connects veterans to veteran peer navigators who can link them to information and needed resources in Los Angeles. Staffed by 211 LA County, the official referral agency for the county’s 10 million residents, this new system provides an easy and convenient way for veterans to gather information. By texting “veteran” to LA211 (52211), veterans will be able to receive an overview of what is available to them in multiple areas, including education, employment, legal, medical and housing, among others.
The platform was conceived in partnership with the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Breaking down barriers
A recent study of the local veteran population by CIR found that significant barriers prevented veterans from receiving care, primarily a lack of knowledge of resources.
“Over half of our veterans don’t know where or how to get help when they need it,” said Nathan Graeser, CIR’s community program administrator who oversees the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative. “Text2Vet is a direct response to the need we found and, better still, it reaches veterans on a level that they normally use to communicate.”
Graeser, who is also a chaplain in the Army National Guard, said texting was a common way that soldiers reached out to him in crisis.
“Veterans want to reach out for help the way they would talk to any family member or friend,” he said. “Nobody wants to drive miles in traffic or wait on hold for a while. The traditional approach to helping people requires these outdated methods where we ask them to do something they wouldn’t normally do for help.”
Peers can help
Text2Vet is the newest avenue for veterans to access a clearinghouse of resources provided by 211 LA County, which maintains an online portal where they can search for services on their own or with the help of a peer navigator.
“Text2Vet is being staffed by veterans for veterans and is just another way that 211 LA County is making sure that those who served our nation and protected our freedoms are getting the services they need,” said Maribel Marin, the agency’s executive director.
The mayor echoed the advantages of having veterans on the other end of the line.
“This text-to-chat option provides a convenient, direct line for Angeleno veterans to communicate with peers who understand the complications of transitioning back to civilian life. Day or night, these highly trained veterans will be on call to walk texters through their options and get them the help they need,” Garcetti said during the summer announcement of the program. “This personalized assistance could make the difference between a new job and collecting another unemployment check.”
The Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative is a network of more than 400 organizations and stakeholders that meets monthly to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing local military populations.
Text2Vet is a six-month feasibility project funded in part through CIR and the Blue Shield of California Foundation.