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2015 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

3092 — Evaluation of the Impact of Community-Based Agricultural Initiatives on Community Reintegration in Rural Veterans

Besterman-Dahan K, CINDRR - COIN - Tampa/NFSG Gainesville; Chavez M, CINDRR - COIN -Tampa/NFSG Gainesville;

This presentation discusses the preliminary qualitative results of a one year, mixed-method project aimed at assessing the impact of Veteran-oriented community agricultural initiatives (CAI) on transitioning rural Veterans and improving VA-CAI partnerships for increased healthcare outreach and access. These objectives align with VHA's Blueprint for Excellence which prioritizes advanced health care innovation for Veterans, leveraging and collaborating with community resources to advance Veterans' outcomes and finding mechanisms to assert Veteran voices and self-determination into non-VA providers.

To date, we have conducted 18 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with Veteran CAI participants, their family members, non-Veteran CAI participants, and CAI stakeholders. The interview guide included questions aimed at understanding perceptions of community reintegration, impacts of participating in a CAI, overall program satisfaction, and ways to improve VA-CAI partnerships. Data are collected and analyzed using the recursive process and major preliminary themes have emerged through repetitive review of transcript summaries and field notes

Main themes from the interviews thus far include that the CAI provide Veterans: the opportunity to participate in something with a sense of purpose, to continue being of service to their community, a place of belonging and of doing something life-affirming; new job skills and an opportunity to utilize military skills; a place where peer support occurs naturally and is less intimidating than in VA setting. Additionally, it was discussed that: reintegration is a continual - versus discrete - process. Finally, Veterans and family suggested ways to improve VA-CAI partnerships such as VA providing transportation to CAI, stipends for farm apprenticeship, and VA mental health and vocational rehabilitation services coming out to CAI location.

CAI's are an important vehicle for community reintegration as they provide a place of belonging, social and peer support, new skills and opportunity to be of service to the community to transitioning rural Veterans and their families. Opportunities exist for the VA to partner with CAIs to enhance and improve healthcare outreach and access to rural Veterans

Evidence from this project is expected to inform policy and support the development of programs that can enhance and improve VA-CAI collaborations to increase service options, outreach and access to rural Veterans