WINCHESTER — Help Heal Veterans (Heal Vets), a nonprofit that provides free therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized and homebound veterans and active duty military, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service are partnering to launch a pilot program that helps Veterans diagnosed with the virus who are recovering in isolation at home during COVID-19.

The joint pilot program will provide all the parts required to produce “Quarantine Kits” by local volunteers and are intended to provide productive leisure activities and wellness resources that will serve to lessen anxiety, stress, and boredom. Each kit combines VA educational and awareness materials that identifies local resources and provide tools to help deal with anxiety and stress, reading materials for leisure and activities and a variety of  Heal Vets designed craft kits.

“For vets, the craft kits are more important now than ever and, in many cases, COVID-19’s stay at home orders and quarantine restrictions have escalated these mental health symptoms and changed family dynamics,” said Dr. Keith Stuessi, Retired Navy Captain, Expert in Traumatic Brain Injury and Heal Veterans Board Member. “Hopefully, by using the quarantine craft kits, we’ll be able to not only reduce stress, anxiety and depression of the veteran, but we’ll afford opportunities to build lasting relationships within the family.”

A 2018 study conducted by Heal Veterans discovered that 97% of veterans suffering from mental health complications related to PTSD, TBI, and depression generally felt better after completing a therapeutic craft kit. In addition, 98% reported that the kits took their minds off of their symptoms and war-related difficulties.

“This craft kits pilot program has been a life saver both for our inpatient Veterans as well as those in the community, particularly as we have had to suspend those recreational activities from outside organizations during COVID-19,” said Dr. Sabrina Clark, Director, VA Voluntary Service. “Help Heal Vets has provided isolated Veterans productive activities through therapeutic arts and crafts.”

As part of the joint program, kits will be shared with several VA facilities within service organizations, including Community Living Centers, nursing homes for Veterans to complete independently and within Recreation Therapy programs. The VA’s Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and Recovery Clinic, Home Based Primary Care, Mental Health Intensive Case Management, Medical Foster Home, HUD/VASH, Caregiver Support and Suicide Prevention programs will also receive kits as part of the pilot.

The (10) initial VA sites participating in the “Quarantine Kit” pilot program include:

  • Golden, CO
  • Bay Pines, FL
  • Iron Mountain, MI
  • Fayetteville, NC
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Erie, PA
  • Wilkes Barre, PA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Canandaigua, NY
  • Coatesville, PA

Heal Vets has shipped more than 140,000 free craft kits since the beginning of the pandemic and created a newly designed kit to help veterans make the masks they need to stay healthy and safe.

As the pandemic’s devastation spread across the country earlier this year, VA recorded more than 11,000 cases of coronavirus in the months of April and May. That total includes veterans who use VA health care, VA employees being treated within the system, troops and military family members referred from Defense Department doctors, and civilian patients transferred to VA from overwhelmed local systems.

As VA facilities are in varying stages of VHA’s “Moving Forward Plan,” Heal Vets craft kits continue to be an invaluable resource to promote productive leisure skills. Crafting can provide therapeutic and rehabilitative benefits, including improving fine motor skills, cognitive functioning, memory and dexterity, and can help alleviate feelings of anger and the severity of negative behaviors triggered by those suffering from challenges such as PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).

To learn more about Heal Vets and the organization’s COVID-19 efforts, as well as find out how you can help, click here. 


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