TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama School of Social Work has partnered with The Community Foundation of South Alabama to assess the needs of military veterans in the southern region of the state.
Dr. David Albright, Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health and associate professor of social work at UA, will lead the needs assessment of an estimated 63,000 known veterans in the eight-county region (Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Monroe, Clarke, Choctaw, and Washington counties). The study, which will include data on topics like healthcare access, education and employment, will identify the unmet needs and perceived gaps in available services for veterans and their families and provide the basis for an effective veterans and family support initiative in South Alabama.
Albright said the assessment is needed to prioritize the needs for services and to identify other possible resources, and to determine if barriers are preventing access to existing resources.
“Roughly 1 percent of Americans are veterans, but close to one in 10 residents in Alabama are,” Albright said. “In a state with such a disproportionately strong veteran presence, there is a great need and a great potential for engaging veterans and their families more effectively. The state of Alabama is positioned to be a leader. In order to strengthen existing initiatives, it’s important to ID the needs and gaps in Alabama communities.”
Albright will lead the study, while Dr. Karl Hamner, assistant dean of research, will serve as the co-principal investigator on the project. Hamner said the goal is to expand the eight-county study to a statewide level.
“By doing that, we’d become the first in the country to do a statewide needs assessment,” Hamner said. “This needs assessment is part of UA’s unfolding commitment to vets and families in the Alabama community.”
Members of the CFSA attended the Service Member to Civilian Summit at UA in the spring, where research and ideas on how to help veterans transition from active duty to civilian life were presented. One of the partnerships to grow from the summit was the needs assessment study.
The study will serve as the starting point of a four-year, $600,000 commitment by the CFSA to help serve veterans and families of veterans in South Alabama, either through grantmaking or through other opportunities discovered through the assessment.
“There are more than 63,000 veterans in our eight-county region,” said Rebecca Byrne, President and CEO of The Community Foundation of South Alabama. “This number is increasing exponentially as veterans are returning home. By 2040, it is expected there will be over 500,000 veterans in our area. These men and women have given of themselves to us. We have a responsibility to help them reintegrate back into our community.”
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.