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Faith & Allegiance Initiative prepares for statewide expansion

“Just as those who served in uniform swore to bear true Faith and Allegiance to our Nation, the Faith and Allegiance Initiative, founded by John Wilson, seeks to encourage community and faith-based partners to bear true faith and allegiance by offering a hand,” said Dr. Blake Harris, Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) Veterans Mental Health Department (VMHD) Director.

Pictured from left are Dr. Blake Harris, TVC VMHD Director; and John Wilson, Community and Faith-Based Coordinator TVC VMHD.

Wilson, the Community and Faith-Based Coordinator TVC VMHD, noted that the Faith & Allegiance Initiative was borne out of his behavioral health work with current and former service members and their families.  “He saw that transitioning out of the military was a critical touchpoint and the more positive the transition to civilian life the better the behavioral health outcome,” said Harris.  “The common factors to a successful transition were finding social connectivity, a sense of community and rekindled life purpose.  These three elements, connectivity, community, and life purpose helped build resiliency which serves as a vital support network.”

Now an active part of TVC VMHD, the Faith & Allegiance Initiative is also part of the Austin Mayor’s Challenge to prevent suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their Families (SMVF) and the state’s Long-term Veterans Suicide Prevention Plan.

According to Harris, the next steps being taken begin with VMHD taking the lead on the Faith and Allegiance Initiative’s state-wide implementation whereby:

  1. VMHD will train and provide technical assistance to SMVF, peers, licensed mental health providers and mental health organizations, community and faith-based organizations, and state agencies on the impacts of trauma to the individuals who have been affected.
  2. TVC-certified Peer Services Coordinators of the Military Veteran Peer Network (MVPN) will provide Peer-to-Peer support and engagement through training and linkage to their Volunteer Peers to create a statewide network of Veteran peer support. The MVPN can also provide a bridge to services and programs offered through the Local Mental Health Authorities.
  3. Communities of faith are encouraged to appoint Veterans Faith Champions from within congregations who will serve as resource focal points for current and former service members and their families, promote a variety of virtual monthly skills classes on military culture, etc. through TVC’s Veterans Mental Health Department and the MVPN.

Leaders of both rural and metropolitan areas, faith leaders, community partners, Local Mental Health Authorities and their local MVPN PSCs are encouraged to begin a dialogue to establish local Faith and Allegiance Initiative programs within their areas.

El Faith and Allegiance Initiative launched in June and announced its first Veterans Faith Champions volunteers were in place to act as resource guides to transitioning military and veterans within their faith communities.

To explore joining the Faith & Allegiance Initiative and next steps, please contact John L. Wilson, Community and Faith-Based Coordinator, Veterans Mental Health Department Texas Veterans Commission by phone at (512) 463-6091 or email: vmhd@tvc.texas.gov .

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