The Veteran Providers’ Coalition of Sedgwick County was first named and formed as Veteran Providers’ Coalition (VPC) in January of 2015 and held its first meeting February 20th.  Soon after VPC combined members with the Sedgwick County Veteran’s Coalition becoming The Veteran Providers’ Coalition of Sedgwick County.  The sponsoring agency was The Veterans Advocacy Council for Behavioral Health, an INDEPENDENT Council working with The Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center and the coalition was formed in conjunction with several partnering agencies: Vet-to-Vet Compeer Support Program/(MHA), Wichita Vet Center, VA Medical Center, COMCARE, Veteran Services Organizations, Workforce Alliance of SCK, Veterans Upward Bound, Student Veterans Organization, Inter-Faith Ministries, United Methodist Open Door, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Breakthrough Club, and Project Independence… Mr. Hutchison, Chairman of The Veterans Advocacy Council for Behavioral Health, and Mrs. Gnefkow, Director of Compeer, MHA (Vet-to-Vet Support Program) worked a year long alliance to bring together 17 services providers in Sedgwick County to form a Coalition now known as The Veteran Providers’ Coalition of Sedgwick County (VPCSC)...

  Veteran Providers’ Coalition      
Initial Meeting
February 20, 2015, 2 p.m.
Hosted atMental Health Association of South Central Kansas
555 N. Woodlawn
Wichita, KS

Present: Laurie Pfeiffer, Brad Webster, Stacia Lyday, Anne Corriston, Kathy Hannemann, Charlene Powell, Amber McAnulla, Melissa Gronau, Thomas Hamilton, Tom Pletcher, Sarah Sell, James Riley, Casey McElwain, Brandi Wright, Jen McGill, Angie Burnham, Sandy Swank, Aaron Lovelady, Autumn Schowalter, David Kennedy, Ben Price, Tim Hamilton, Kim Lewis, R. Michael Gillett, Deanna Herrin, Cody Herrin, Howard Hutchison and Patty Gnefkow. 

The initial meeting of the newly organized Veteran Providers’ Coalition (VPC) was held Friday, February 20, 2015, at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas (MHA) at 2 p.m.  Twenty-eight representatives attended representing 16 organizations: Wichita Workforce Center, Salvation Army, MHA: Vet-to-Vet and Sr. Companion, Veteran Service Organization at WSU,  Veterans of Affairs Vet Center, AW2 (Wounded Warriors), VFW/VSO, VA/Rural Health Program, VA/HCHV, Veterans Upward Bound, Inter-Faith Ministries, Sedgwick County Human Services, Wichita State University, Catholic Charities and the Veterans Advocacy Council for Behavioral Health.  Attendee Amber McAnulla is a veteran practicum student from WSU working with the Vet-to-Vet Compeer Support Program. The meeting was led by Veteran Providers’ Coalition (VPC) Founder/Convener, Howard Hutchison. 

Patty Gnefkow, Director of the Vet-to-Vet Compeer Support Program at MHA welcomed guests. As attendees introduced themselves and explained their role in veterans needs in the community, it was evident that many in attendance collaborate with each other on a regular basis.  This meeting is being held to bring us together to discuss how we, together, can help our veterans. 

One opportunity for our homeless veterans is the 2nd Tuesday meeting Connie Jarvis VA, hosts at United Methodist Open Door, welcoming providers to round table ideas and information concerning veterans using Open Door services.  Hutch explained that it was Connie’s efforts that gave insight to expanding the concept into a Veteran Providers’ Coalition that had a broader scope and more of a coalition structure.  Thus the decision was made to have a providers’ coalition and get together on a regular basis. Everyone will have an equal stake, asking the question, “Can we make an hour collectively more productive than an hour we spend individually.”       
When we meet with vets, we need to recycle our efforts instead of recycling our vets.  There are scenarios we deal with on a daily basis, and we need to bring these issues to the forefront and find solutions through effective communication.  Hopefully this will decrease the time that we will need to meet in the long run.

Thomas Pletcher launched and took the lead in creating the Sedgwick County Veterans Coalition bringing people together who offer services to veterans.  They meet twice a year and communicate often by email.  This coalition basically includes people who help veterans.  They met in January and will meet again this summer. 

Hutch said this coalition (VPC) will not follow a structure (i.e. elected positions) until mandated to do so. Everyone is equally invested.  The direction and emphasis includes the ability to do some things that our organizations, agencies and/or the VA may not be able to accomplish alone, such as advertise.  At some point, we will develop a mission statement and vision going forward.  We are fortunate to have all in one room to work on this.  We look to having constant feedback from vets from the front line.

An example of how this can work:  MHA expanded its Compeer program in January of 2014 to match vets with vets, and currently have 14 solid one-to-one matches, getting ready to match six more.  As this program grows, we will have a better understanding of what is needed.  Hutch explained the Vet-to Vet Support Program and outlined a model that provides a constant, reliable source of feedback from the veterans on the front line who we serve.  It was expressed that the Vet-to-Vet Program could lay initial groundwork as in keeping a pulse on Veteran’s on going issues and needs for the VPC coalition to address.

Hutch explained that one problem is when vets are discharged from the service with “bad conduct” – they do qualify for some services, but hard to seek out where this vet can be served.  Because there are so many options no one agency can know them all. Hutch asked everyone to send program information to him and he will feed this back to the Coalition so there will be one resource finder.  This can create a process to allow  veterans to qualify for available services.

Inter-Faith Ministries said that the biggest problem for vets is being unable to get to where they are directed to go for services.  We solve this problem by going to them, by bringing services to the homeless shelter, by going to them when they are there in the evenings.
Through the Veteran’s Choice Act, personnel in the Rural Health Program at the VA serve every county in Kansas, and have been traveling to every county to be there during drill for the Air National Guard to advise them of available services. The VA serves over 7,000 persons over age 70, who will need end of life assistance.

Brad Webster from Veterans Upward Bound program at WSU reported they are getting out of the office to go to vets when necessary to work with a wide specter.
Cody Herrin reported that there is an 88% dropout rate for veterans at WSU, and the WSU vet center is trying to change that by tracking the vet students.  They are currently tracking around 400, yet estimate that over 800 are not being tracked.  WSU has a pilot program, “Wichita in Mind” to address “alternative medicines” have teamed up with Newman and Friends Universities and are building a program for resiliency, training and alternative mental health care.  The first practice group sessions will be the end of April or beginning of May. The Downtown Vet Center is involved with these efforts. The long-term goal is to create a resiliency center for domestic abuse and violence. 

Melissa Gronau announced that the VA has a yoga session at 3 p.m. every Thursday and welcomes vets to join – it is low impact.

To sum up the day, the Coalition needs to:

     Have clear mission and vision statements
     Create a community calendar for veteran related events
     Develop a veteran resource guide
     Understand what services are available from each agency
     Outline issues, barriers and solutions

This is a community effort.

Approximately 20 attendees stayed after meeting was adjourned networking with one another and offering feedback.

The next VPC meeting will be Friday, March 20, 2015 from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. with networking  from 3:00 - 3:30 p.m. at the Mental Health Association - Training Room. 

Minutes Respectfully Submitted,

Charlene Powell

Veteran Providers’ Coalition        

So, did we answer the question, are we willing, do we have an hour, and do we want to have a Veterans Providers’ Coalition (VPC)…and the answer is YES.  17 invites were sent out with 28 representatives from 16 veteran service providers in attendance.  In our meeting the statement was made, “Can we collectively make an hour more productive than an hour we would be spending otherwise.”

Hopefully we recognize the difference between conferences, summits and special events showcasing our wares and a Veterans Providers’ Coalition.  And, can we separate with perspective, “Ask not what the veteran means to the coalition, but what the coalition means to the veteran.”
We need a business model that provides a constant, reliable source of feedback from the veterans on the front line who we serve.  Hopefully many will agree that the Vet-to-Vet Compeer Support Program will help lay the initial groundwork as a conduit to the coalition (VPC).

Each organization has a unique mission, funding sources and service deliveries resulting in certain limitations on what their involvement might entail.  In the long run, a coalition’s ability to put partisan aspects aside will help us accomplish a variety of goals that may not be achieved individually.

A coalition is a pact or treaty among individuals or groups, during which they cooperate in joint action, each in their own self-interest, joining forces together for a common cause.   A coalition thus differs from a more formal covenant. Possibly described as a joining of 'factions', usually those with overlapping interests rather than opposing.   - Wikipedia   

So, thereby knowing what services each other provides, we can offer comprehensive support to our local veterans as in outlining situations or scenarios of veterans’ issues or example navigations of obstacles that lead to solutions for veterans.  
For example, a member from another coalition said, “It could be something as simple as a veteran needs work boots to get a job. I had three answers in five minutes. That knowledge base is extremely valuable.”


The concept is based on leveraging relationships with other veteran service organizations so that we may provide veterans with complete services. Support comes in the form of emergency financial services, housing assistance, career assessments, education, certifications, counseling, job placement, homeless support, medical services and community support.

The coalition consists of voluntary partnerships that bring together the key players in the community of veteran services, organizations, non-profits and governmental entities that are committed to providing services and raises awareness of specific issues that our local veterans and their families’ needs.
Our purpose is to unite the various veterans’ service organizations throughout Sedgwick County to work as one for the advancement of veteran causes and improve the day to day lives of those who have returned home.  By working together, we can ensure that our efforts are not duplicated and the needs of veterans are met.

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