Dr. Kenneth Wells, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of health policy and management, will collaborate with colleagues at UCLA and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to lead this week’s “Veteran Resilience and Recovery” conference at UCLA, created to focus on the veteran community, including addressing homelessness and behavioral health.
“This will be an important chance to share both research findings and engage providers, veterans and the community in innovations in support of veterans with homelessness and behavioral health conditions,” Wells said. “The panels will also address resilience and recovery, including through acknowledging the importance of the arts as an engagement strategy.”
Wells and colleagues, including Dr. Lillian Gelberg and Dr. Sonya Gabrielian, with appointments at UCLA Fielding School and the VA, respectively, have expertise on behavioral health for veterans, including trauma from wartime service, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, homelessness, and experiences of family members and providers. All presenters actively work with veterans. Dr. Wells leads the UCLA Center for Health Services and Society, part of the Jane and Terry Semel Institute, which will host the conference on behalf of the UCLA/VA Center of Excellence (COE) for Veteran Resilience and Recovery, a joint project of UCLA with the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (VA), initiated four years ago and continuing over the next several years to promote innovations in serving veterans with homelessness and behavioral health needs.
The U.S. Census estimates that, in 2019, there were 243,871 civilian U.S. military veterans living in Los Angeles County. They comprise about 3.1 percent of the county’s civilian population, age 18 years or older. Although the veteran population in Los Angeles County is only 1.3 percent of the nation's civilian veteran population, it is the second largest veteran population of any U.S. county.
In January, 2019, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) volunteers counted 3,874 veterans living on the street or in cars, tents, and shelters. The 2018 count recorded 3,886 veterans who were homeless in Los Angeles County. Only about 7% of people in the U.S. can claim veteran status, but former service members make up around 13% of the country's homeless population, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
The conference, set for 1-3 pm May 27 PST, is sponsored by UCLA. The UCLA/VA COE is a partnership under the UCLA Chancellor’s Office of Veteran Affairs Relations and Greater Los Angeles VA, with UCLA’s Health Services and Society as a lead. COE’s research directors are Gabrielian, with the VA, and Wells, who serves as research co-director for UCLA. Gelberg, a Fielding School professor of health policy management and a physician whose research includes COVID-19 prevention strategies for those experiencing homelessness, including veterans, will present a keynote on “Veteran Families.”
“A major element of the event is to bring forward the work UCLA and VA researchers have been doing in Los Angeles and elsewhere, with support from our Veteran and provider stakeholder groups, on how to improve the health and quality of care of our nation’s most vulnerable populations, including Veterans facing homelessness,” Gelberg said. “Through the COE, our team have developed the art and science of working with stakeholders to come up with innovative ideas, pilot them, and use data from the field and existing VA databases to learn how to bring these ideas to serve veterans.”
UCLA and VA have partnered to serve veterans for more than 70 years, starting with the formation of a medical affiliation between UCLA’s School of Medicine and the VA healthcare system after World War II.