Three Cool Veteran Collaborations Happening in Maine
On July 19, 2018, hundreds of service providers, veterans, government representatives, private citizens, and other stakeholders convened at the Augusta Civic Center for the 9th Annual Maine Military and Community Network Conference (MMCN). The conference, hosted each year by a regional chapter of the MMCN, brings together a diverse set of stakeholders to educate one another, network, and work together on the issues facing Maine’s military, veterans, and families.
The conference has multi-track offerings that offer focused insight into areas of interest. During the panels and networking sessions, we learned about three interesting public-private collaborations serving vets in Maine.
Medical-Legal Partnership at Togus
Based on the Medical-Legal Partnership model, first implemented in Boston in 1993 by Dr. Barry Zuckerman in response to the AIDS crisis, Pine Tree Legal Assistance (PTLA) has embedded lawyers at Togus (Maine’s largest VA hospital) to help tackle the health-impacting legal issues in the lives of veterans. PTLA Attorneys Krista Selnau and Dylan Maeby presented on the partnership, explaining their dual roles as trainers and attorneys.
As trainers, Krista and Dylan travel the state educating primary care providers, specialists, and mental health providers on “health-harming” legal issues: for example, mold in a rented apartment. Their training helps providers both recognize when a legal intervention may improve the patient’s health, and initiate a warm handoff to a member of the legal team.
Krista and Dylan are also a legal resource for referred veterans. Once the provider has connected the patient with the legal team, the team helps them understand their rights and options, assists them in navigating the legal process, and can represent their interests or refer to a specialized lawyer through the Maine Volunteer Lawyer project.
Maine Hire a Vet
The Maine Hire a Vet program began in 2015 as a campaign to “hire 100 veterans in 100 days.” When all the hires were reported, the program had accomplished double its goal–but the result was even more valuable. The partnerships and employment pipelines that were defined and exercised during the campaign continued to be open and productive through the following year…and the year after that…and the year after that. Now, the campaign still takes place for 100 days every fall, but the work of the partners, the awareness around veteran underemployment, and the improved referral and hiring practices continue year round.
The planning committee–which remains in communication year-round, and meets for 3-4 months prior to campaign start–consists of public, private, and independent sector representatives. Employment specialists, Maine Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Labor managers, marketing professionals, employers, and service providers are all part of the planning process and execution.
All the stakeholders are important, but the private sector partnership is the not-so-secret-sauce. Early private adopters included some of the largest employers in the state of Maine, and mid-sized and small businesses followed suit. Without active participation and follow-through from the employers, the campaign could not succeed.
The Pine Tree Legal Assistance team has another example of local collaboration, this time with a well-known private sector partner: Starbucks.
One monday a month since 2016, PTLA hosts a three-hour pro-bono legal clinic from a Starbucks in Brunswick, Maine. “Military Mondays” tackles a different legal topic each month, and features a casual presentation as well as opportunities to speak with a pro-bono lawyer. With volunteers from the Maine State Bar Association and Pine Tree Legal Assistance available, veterans can seek legal advice in a relaxed, low-stress atmosphere. Starbucks provides an in-kind donation of meeting space and coffee to set a comfortable tone.
The contributions from the non-profit, volunteer lawyers, and Starbucks help make legal services accessible to military and veterans who might not otherwise engage in the legal system due to finances, location, or apprehension.
What interesting collaborations are happening in your state?
Collaborations come in all shapes and scales. From the opportunity for a veteran to have coffee with a legal expert, to a statewide effort to improve employment outcomes for veterans, it all makes a difference. What interesting collaborations are taking place in your state?
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