Hampton VA Medical Center
Hampton VAMC Recognizes National Re-entry Week
Hampton, Va. – The week of April 24 – 30 is recognized as National Re-Entry Week and Hampton VA Medical Center’s Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) team is using this opportunity to spread awareness about its purpose and overall goal to help Veterans reduce re-entry into the justice system.
VA has a deep commitment to serving Veterans reentering the community from prison and jail. Reentry is a critically vulnerable time when VA services and supports can maintain continuity of medical, psychiatric, and substance abuse treatment, and help reentry Veterans avoid homelessness through direct homeless programs and benefit supports. In partnership with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) VA medical centers national wide will host events to bring awareness to and highlight the importance of reentry from prison and jail in public safety and criminal justice reform.
Hampton’s VJO program staff members will set up an information table on Monday April 25 through Friday April 29 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm in the Main Lobby of the hospital near Starbucks for anyone interested in learning more about the program.
The VJO program was created in 2009 at Hampton and has a staff of two VJO Specialists, social workers Nicole Ellis and LaBarbara Williams, and one Peer Support Specialist Kenneth Seabron, a U.S. Army Veteran. The goals of the program are to reduce Veteran recidivism; homelessness and help veterans better navigate the justice and Veterans Health systems.
Hampton VA Public Affairs sat down with VJO staff members Ellis, Seabron and Williams to talk a little more about their program.
Public Affairs: Tell me a little about VJO and what sorts of services you provide for Veterans.
Williams: We link Veterans to the correct resources based on their particular situation and their needs. We liaise with treatment teams, judges, community providers and partners on behalf of Veterans. Additionally we provide some case management and monitoring to ensure there is progress with court ordered treatment plan.
Ellis: We work with Virginia drug treatment courts to monitor Veterans from beginning to end. And we also work with Community Service Boards to assist Veterans – especially with housing.
Seabron: Many of our Veterans who enter the justice system are often homeless when they go in or when they are released from prison so we also connect them to offices within the VA or in the community to get them housed.
Public Affairs: How are Veterans referred to VJO?
Williams: Veterans are referred from probation offices, judges or courts and they can also self-refer.
Public Affairs: Do you provide any legal assistance to Veterans in addition to case management?
Ellis: We don’t provide legal assistance here but we have a partnership with [the College of] William and Mary to help Veterans with disability claims and minor legal matters on the peninsula side. Veterans on the south side [of Hampton Roads] are referred to legal aid.
Public Affairs: Why do you do this? It seems as though the need is so great when it comes to Veterans who need assistance with legal matters and such. What is the driving force that motivates you to help Veterans in this way?
Williams: My passion for helping came about while working in the court system where I started out as a social worker liaising with courts in the community. What I did was similar to Probation Officers duties and I wanted to assist and prevent re-entry into the court system/prison system. I was suicide a prevention coordinator initially at Hampton and when the VJO program came online I applied and was accepted into a position. This is where I’ve been ever since and I love it.
Ellis: Well I know what I do here is important and I realized years ago that the reason why I’m here is to help people and to constantly learn from my experiences with them. I am constantly being educated and expanding my skillset to help make Veterans lives better.
Seabron: I’m a Veteran who has been incarcerated in the past so I understand what other Veterans go through when they’re getting out of prison or jail. It can be overwhelming for people to try and figure out what their next step is and where to turn. I feel like this is what I’m here to do – help other Veterans the way someone helped me.
To receive assistance from the VJO team, veterans must be eligible for VA care. In some instances Veterans who are not eligible for care will be able to receive assistance on a humanitarian basis. For more information about VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach program please visit http://www.va.gov/homeless/vjo.asp/.