'Give an Hour' Aids Troops, Families

NASW is endorsing a new program that provides free mental health services to U.S. troops and their families.

Give an Hour is a national nonprofit organization with the mission of developing a national network of volunteers capable of responding to both acute and chronic conditions that arise within society.

According to Give an Hour founder and president Barbara V. Romberg, at least one-third of the nearly 1,400 providers participating in the network are social workers.

The organization's first target population is U.S. troops and families who are being affected by the military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As its name implies, mental health professionals in the network offer an hour of their time each week to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families.

The current project focuses on providing mental health support services to those who are unable to access mental health services through the military or for those no longer eligible to receive benefits. The organization also provides services to family members, such as parents, siblings, grandparents and unmarried partners, who are ineligible to receive services through the military.

Military families can also use the organization's Web site to investigate a range of resources and links that might be helpful to them.

The organization will provide these troops and their family members who receive services with the opportunity to give back to their own communities by partnering with veterans service organizations as well as local, state and federal agencies and organizations to donate time to others in need.

According to Give an Hour, there are already numerous outreach efforts taking place, including those through the Department of Defense, the National Guard and the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are also outreach efforts being conducted through several veterans service organizations, which are embracing the efforts of Give an Hour.

Individuals and organizations have also provided support and assistance to Give an Hour in other ways.

In May, for example, Give an Hour officials said the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation partnered with the American Psychiatric Foundation to award Give an Hour a $1 million grant to assist in public education efforts. Officials said this funding will help Give an Hour reach those in the mental health community who wish to provide services as well as those who need mental health care and support.

Members of Congress have also been spreading the word about their endorsements of Give an Hour. They include Reps. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.).