August 17, 2020

SheServed 2020: From Vision to Policy

SheServed 2020: It's Time for Women Veteran-Informed CareAlong with our fellow advocates, we have been working on ways for healthcare providers to appropriately serve the many military women in our communities.

More than 70% of women veterans receive primary care from community providers, not the VA. But the majority of community health and behavioral health providers lack the training and resources to properly diagnose and treat military related trauma and injuries of veterans. We’ve created a toolkit of resources and best practices.

Now it’s time to push for universal adoption. Here’s why it’s important:

We held a virtual gathering in September where we put the finishing touches on a plan to make this vision a reality across Illinois. The work session waw streamed on Facebook Live, with all interested parties welcome to listen in, and post questions and suggestions. A number of you did!

Raise awareness: hashtag #SheServed2020

Conference Schedule
DAY 1: Refining the Toolkit   Wednesday, September 16, 4-6pm
Welcome: Barbara Otto, Smart Policy Works
Panel One: The Need for Women Veteran-Informed Care
Overview of the Issue in Illinois – Barbara Otto
VA Perspective – Irma Sharp, PhD, LCSW, Women Veterans Program Manager, Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
Primary Care Physician Perspective – Breanna Gawrys, DO, FM-OB Faculty Physician at Scott Air Force Base, SLU School of Medicine Family Medicine Residency Program; and Courtney Mapes, MD, MPH, Heartland Health Centers in Chicago
Women Veteran Perspective – Mary Roberson, EdD, LCPC, CSADC, founder of Northern Illinois Recovery Community Organization
Panel Two: Making Care Women Veteran-Informed
The ACCESS Pilot – Silvia Ojisua, RN, BSN, PCMH CCE, Regional Operations Manager at ACCESS Community Health Network, will provide a brief overview of their experience working with Smart Policy Works to adapt health center processes and services to be more women veteran-informed.
Primary Care Physician Perspective – Dr. Breanna Gawrys and Dr. Courtney Mapes

DAY 2: Mapping Our Strategy   Thursday, September 17, 4-6pm
Welcome Back & Charge for the Day: Barbara Otto, Smart Policy Works
Panel One: Building Women Veteran Informed Care: the Women Veteran-Ready Provider Toolkit.
Panel Two: Strategies to Make Women Veteran-Informed Care a Priority in ALL Primary Care Settings – Kevin Hull, JD, Chicago Association for Research and Education in Science (CARES); Gordana Krkic, CAE, Illinois Academy of Family Physicians.

Learn more about our presenters

The Work Thus Far
The Women Veterans Health Initiative – a broad coalition of advocates and stakeholders – has been working to change that. The group has authored several documents laying out the need, and calling for specific changes in practice. In 2019, the Illinois Senate adopted a WVHI-promoted resolution calling on providers to ask women if they have served – a crucial first step.

Working with ACHN, the largest community healthcare provider in the Chicago area, we created screening tools and questions to identify women who have served or are actively serving, along with military-friendly marketing materials. Now we are seeking continued support to create a resource guide, training, and tools that will build capacity of Federally Qualified Health Centers and 12,000 primary care providers in Illinois to provide women veteran informed care to our state’s 49,000 female veterans.

We are partnering with Illinois Academy of Family Physicians to adapt VA resources and screening tools, and create training for primary care providers for CME credits.

We Are Many – We Are Strong – We Can Do This
This is not the work of one group, or one organization. It has been a broad, inclusive community effort.

A key participant has been Illinois Joining Forces, a statewide, public-private network of military and veteran-serving organizations. IJF works to help service members, veterans, and their families identify and marshal resources and services. The organization has been instrumental in raising up the issues of women veterans, both through their Women Veteran Ambassador Program and a community support network.

IJF is a co-founder of the Women Veterans Roundtable, a collaborative comprising community members committed to serving women veterans. The Roundtable has met regularly to hammer out a community-informed solution to promoting women veterans’ healthcare. Women veterans are at higher risk for pelvic health issues, MST, PTSD, and homelessness, and face significant barriers accessing appropriate care. The Roundtable’s 2019 report identified three fundamental barriers:

  • Women visiting healthcare settings are not asked if they have ever served in the military.
  • Community healthcare settings often lack trauma-informed professionals.
  • Women veterans lack are often not aware of resources available to them.

Key conveners and participants have included Thresholds and the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This work has been made possible by generous support from Boeing and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, with additional support and participation from the VNA Foundation, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and a host of other concerned stakeholders.

Working together, we can get it done.

Our 2020 Goal
We intend to raise up women veteran-informed care so that it becomes as much top of mind as the ADA, police reform – or COVID-19! It’s long overdue.

What Can I Do?
If you are a community medical or behavioral health provider, you can make sure you ask your female patients and clients if they have ever served in the military

If you are veteran center or community organization, you can convey your concern to your area’s hospitals and clinics – and to your elected officials.

If you are woman veteran or active service member, you can take heart and know that a strong coalition is working for you. And you can speak up as well – identify as a veteran, or a service member, when asked – it helps you, and your sisters.

Our Presenters
Breanna Gawrys, DO. A member of the Family Medicine faculty at Scott AFB/St Louis University Family Medicine Residency Program as well as the AF/SG Acupuncture Consultant, Dr. Gawrys is an active-duty major and a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians .

Kevin Hull, JD. As the chief development officer at CARES, Hull serves the research entity that administers all non-VA funded research and education projects for several Midwestern VA hospitals. A licensed attorney, he was previously staff counsel in the Illinois General Assembly. He has been a longtime dedicated advocate for our wounded service members and their families, and has taught policy and legislation at UIC John Marshall Law School.

Gordana Krkic, CAE. As the chief advocacy and policy officer for the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. Krkic (Kirk-itch) promotes family medicine’s viewpoint to government agencies, the Illinois legislature, other organizations, and policymakers. She is a Certified Association Executive and a fellow of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago.

Courtney Mapes, MD, MPH. A flight surgeon with the Peoria Air National Guard 182nd Airlift Wing, Dr. Mapes completed deployments to Afghanistan, the Mediterranean, and Kuwait and served as Flight Commander of the Flight and Operational Medicine Clinic at Beale AFB in California. She is family medicine physician with the Heartland Health Centers in Chicago.

Silvia Ojisua, RN, BSN, PCMH CCE. With 35 years of experience as a registered nurse, Ojisua directs day-to-day operations at 10 ACHN health centers including 2 COVID 19 testing sites. She assisted Access Community Health Network in achieving Patient-Centered Medical Home certification and six successful Joint Commission survey.

Barbara Otto. With extensive expertise in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security-related public benefits programs and has been frequently called upon to provide analysis and insights on healthcare, disability, and employment matters for Congress, CMS, the Social Security Administration, and media outlets. An advocate for health and economic security since the 1990s, she is the chief executive officer of Smart Policy Works.

Mary Roberson, EdD, LCPC, CSADC. A Navy veteran with over 20 years in behavioral health services, Roberson was previously managing director for Nicasa Behavioral Health Services. She has facilitated women’s specialized groups on various traumas and serves as a member the Drug Court Team and Veterans Treatment Assistance Court. Certified as a Supervisor of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counseling, she is herself is in long-term recovery.

Irma Sharp, PhD, LCSW. As the women veterans program manager Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, Dr. Sharp serves as an advocate and resource for women veterans to ensure equitable access to high quality care. She previously worked in the mental health clinic and served as the intimate partner violence assistance program coordinator. Bilingual and bicultural, she offers services to Spanish-speaking women patients at Lovell FHCC who prefer to speak their native language.


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