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AMERICUS, GEORGIA — The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s (RCI) signature military caregiver program, Operation Family Caregiver, announced its expansion into three new regions with high concentrations of returning military personnel at its annual summit Friday, Oct. 24.

Rosalynn Carter

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter welcoming those in attendance at the 2014 RCI Summit.

“After a year, we are seeing people come through the program, and it is easy to see how much more equipped these caregivers are to provide the right kind of support to their husbands, wives, and children,” said RCI’s executive director Dr. Leisa Easom. “We know the program works, and we just need to make it available to more families.”

Seeing OFC’s promising results, but given limited resources, RCI has developed a deliberate and strategic plan to extend the program into the 10 states with the highest concentration of post-9/11 veterans, active military, and guard/reserve. The three new sites – Houston, Texas (2nd in the U.S.); Augusta, Ga. (5th); and Tallahassee, Fla. (6th) – continue bringing OFC into states with the highest need. These additional sites will nearly double the footprint of the program when they begin serving caregivers in early 2015.

Leisa Easom
RCI Executive Director Leisa Easom announces the three newest sites for Operation Family Caregiver.

Operation Family Caregiver launched in 2012 with catalytic funding from Johnson & Johnson. The program was piloted in Johnstown, Pa., and expanded to San Diego, Calif.; Killeen, Texas (Fort Hood); and Buffalo, N.Y., in 2013. It can be provided in person or via Skype.

Under the auspices of the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, the Harris County Area Agency on Aging (HCAAA), together with Care Connection Aging and Disability Resource Center, will provide OFC to caregivers of veterans throughout Houston and the 12 surrounding counties. The program is made possible in part by federal funds, which are distributed by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

In Augusta, near Fort Gordon, OFC will be implemented by the Augusta Warrior Project. With approximately 66,000 veterans, including 6,600 post-9/11 veterans, the greater Augusta area stands to benefit greatly from the program’s services.

The OFC program in Tallahassee will provide a new example for how OFC can be situated in a university setting. While it will serve the entire community, OFC will reside at the Florida State University (FSU) College of Social Work. Nearly 400 military personnel and veterans, as well as almost 600 of their dependents, are currently enrolled in FSU; and nearby Tallahassee Community College and Florida A & M University add about 650 additional veterans.

This announcement wasl made at RCI’s 27th Annual Summit and Training Institute, which took place at Georgia Southwestern State University. First Lady Rosalynn Carter will joined leaders from the White House’s Joining Forces initiative, the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, AARP, and other organizations to discuss solutions to America’s caregiver crisis.

Nearly one-third of the adult population in the United States – 66 million people – are caregivers, and many of those care for former military service members. The summit aims to provide best practices and collaborative pathways for professional and family caregivers in the United States.

At the summit, the family of Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg offered insight. Remsburg, who was first introduced to the public during the 2014 State of the Union Address, was deployed 10 times before being injured in 2009 in Afghanistan. After three months in a coma, he has suffered debilitating physical and mental injuries and endured dozens of surgeries. His stepmother, who, with Cory’s father, has cared for Cory since his injury, spoke of the tremendous challenges for caregivers to overcome, for both the person they are caring for and themselves, and of the benefit of such programs as OFC and other family caregiver resources.

Remsburgs receive military caregiver award

Craig (right, center) and Annie (left, center) Remsburg receive the inaugural Military Family Caregiver of the Year Award for the care of their son Cory Remsburg (seated) from Rosalynn Carter and Laura Bauer (right) of the RCI.

Additional Information and Resources

Photos, videos, and background available here.

 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 www.rosalynncarter.org. For more information about Operation Family Caregiver, visit www.operationfamilycaregiver.org.

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