Rosalynn Carter Institute expands Operation Family Caregiver and Forms Volunteer Model With Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and Blue Star Families

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The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s (RCI) Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) will pilot a new volunteer program thanks to funding from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and a new partnership with Blue Star Families, the largest chapter-based, volunteer, military family engagement organization in the nation.

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“The partnership between RCI, Bristol-Myers and Blue Star Families is a natural fit in positively impacting military families in life after deployment," said RCI Executive Director both organizations are Leisa Easom, Ph.D

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s (RCI) Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) will pilot a new volunteer program thanks to funding from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and a new partnership with Blue Star Families, the largest chapter-based, volunteer, military family engagement organization in the nation. Training will commence for OFC coaches in fall 2015, with service to military families, done both in person and via SKYPE, beginning as early as December.

Under the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation grant, a new version of the OFC program will be piloted using volunteers from the Blue Star Families network as the coaches who will be working with the caregivers. This innovative new volunteer model will expand OFC’s nationwide reach to include Washington, D.C. and San Antonio, Texas. If successful, the Blue-Star Families volunteer model may be adapted in additional sites around the U.S.

“The partnership between RCI and Blue Star Families is a natural fit; both organizations are dedicated to providing support and reaching positive outcomes for military families,” said RCI Executive Director Leisa Easom, Ph.D. “The funding from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation will positively impact more military families in life after deployment.”

Operation Family Caregiver (http://www.operationfamilycaregiver.org) is an evidence-based one-on-one support program that builds strong military families and teaches problem-solving to families living with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and/or a physical disability. Caregivers who have completed the program in its early implementations report being more satisfied with life, accompanied by measurable progress in areas such as: reduced depression, fewer health complaints, increased ability to take care of their families and greater confidence in solving their own problems.

The OFC program was launched in 2012 with catalytic funding from Johnson & Johnson. It was piloted in Johnstown, Pa., and expanded to San Diego, Calif.; Killeen, Texas; and Buffalo, N.Y., in 2013. The RCI announced additional expansion in 2014 to Houston, Texas; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Augusta, Ga.

“With an estimated 5.5 million military caregivers in the U.S., the emotional, physical and financial impact of caregiving can be extraordinary,” explains Noeleen Tillman, executive director for Blue Star Families. “Our 2014 Annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey revealed that 32 percent of the respondents annually provide care for someone, and 15 percent spend 40 or more hours – equivalent to a full-time job – providing daily living assistance for a loved one who served in the military. Our innovative partnership with RCI will literally open doors to new resources for caregivers. And thanks to the generosity of Bristol-Myers Squibb, we will dramatically increase our capacity to help military family members adjust to a new life that involves unexpected dedication, time and energy in support of a service member's physical and invisible wounds of war – all while tending to the day to day tasks at home and work.”

San Antonio, Texas and Washington, D.C. were strategically chosen as new sites because of their considerable military family population and strong Blue Star Families chapters (http://www.bluestarfam.org). This is the third OFC site in Texas, with other sites located in Killeen and Houston. Texas has a population of 27 million, and seven percent of those are military families. Eight percent of Washington, D.C.’s population – 660,000 – consists of military families.

“Support to military caregivers is critical to the health and well-being of returning service members and their families,” said Sharon D’Agostino, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship. Johnson & Johnson is proud to have been the inaugural partner with RCI to pilot and launch Operation Family Caregiver. We’re excited about the new partnership with Blue Star Families to help even more people access the important resources RCI provides.”

“The transition back to civilian life can be challenging for military families as they become disconnected from their usual support networks, but this task is even greater for those who care for our wounded warriors,” said John Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “For all their courage, compassion and resiliency, caregivers should not have to face this challenge alone. That is why the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is proud to partner with RCI, Blue Star Families and others to eliminate institutional and cultural barriers that can prevent veterans and their families from seeking or obtaining high-quality care."

For more information about Operation Family Caregiver, visit http://www.operationfamilycaregiver.org.

-- GSW --

About the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving
Located in Americus, Ga., the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving is a division of Georgia Southwestern State University. The RCI was established in 1987 in honor of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a GSW alumna who serves as president of the Institute's Board of Advisors. RCI establishes local, state, national and international partnerships committed to building quality, long-term, home and community-based services. It advocates for evidence-based research to address the strain and burdens associated with family, volunteer and professional caregiving. In 2013, with support from Johnson & Johnson, RCI established Operation Family Caregiver, which coaches the families of newly returning service members and veterans to manage the difficulties they face when they come home.

For additional information about the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, visit http://www.rosalynncarter.org. For more information about Operation Family Caregiver, visit http://www.operationfamilycaregiver.org.

About Blue Star Families
Blue Star Families (BSF) is a national, nonprofit network by and for military families from all ranks and services, including active duty, National Guard and reserves. Blue Star Families strengthens military families and our nation by connecting communities and fostering leadership. With our partners, Blue Star Families hosts a robust array of morale, empowerment, education, and employment programs.

Founded by military spouses in 2009, the organization has engaged tens of thousands of volunteers and served more than 1.5 million military family members annually, including wounded and transitioning service members and their loved ones. Our worldwide membership includes military spouses, children, parents, and friends, as well as service members, veterans and civilians. Join as a Blue Star Families member, or a Blue Star Neighbor at bluestarfam.org.

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