U.S. Army Veteran Tim McGill had a tough time readjusting to civilian life in 2008 after four years of service. He felt detached, angry and eventually turned to alcohol and drugs, which led to encounters with the criminal justice system. In the spring of 2019, he found help through Kelly Fulmer, a Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) specialist, and the Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) program at the Butler VA Health Care System in Pennsylvania.
MRT is an evidence-based cognitive-behavioral approach in which Veterans spend hours working on themselves, and then share progress with a facilitator and within a group setting. But when the pandemic hit, Butler VHCS suspended on-site operations.
“We couldn’t completely halt the [MRT] program because of COVID-19,” Fulmer said. “People are working on some really tough stuff in here. No matter what, we had to keep these Veterans connected.”
Fulmer decided to lead an initiative to obtain and distribute iPads to Veterans in MRT who wouldn’t have access otherwise. This initiative allowed McGill to resume face-to-face communication with Fulmer, his therapist, and other Veterans, which has proven to be a great support system for him.
“Staying connected, not only for me but for other Veterans, is absolutely critical,” McGill said. “When you don’t have a support team or other Veterans to talk to, it makes things incredibly difficult.”