Inside Bristol-Myers Squibb's Veterans' Mental Health Giving

If you’ve been following the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, then you’ll know that lately the Foundation has been investing in the mental health needs of returning veterans— in a big way. Recent grants in this area include $600,000 to benefit the Mental Health Association of New York, and $700,000 for Suicide Prevention International— big chunks of money, especially when you consider that BMSF gives away less than $30 million per year, and it has active programs in global health, diabetes, public health, and other areas.

Now, BMSF is reinforcing this newfound interest by announcing more than $4.4 million in new grants, all targeting veterans’ mental health needs. "Hundreds of thousands of veterans struggle with the challenges of re-integration— unemployment and marital stress, as well as PTSD and traumatic brain injury," said Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation president John Damonti. "The Foundation's commitment to its partners will not only implement novel models of support for veterans and their families, but also provide much-needed evidence from scientific evaluations to help influence informed decisions for policy change."

To that end, BMSF’s giving includes science-y mental-health research initiatives, job training, veterans education, and supporting organizations involved in handling legal affairs for returning vets. Almost $700,000 is going toward the New York Legal Assistance Group and the Connecticut Veterans Legal Clinic, two organizations partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs to give vets easy access to legal advice.

The Minnesota Veterans Medical Research and Education Foundation will receive $601,597 over two years to establish a pastoral counseling program to address “moral injury”— the killing or wounding of others— in post-combat life. Other funded initiatives are primarily mental health-based, including $967,790 to Points of Light, the National Council for Behavioral Health, and Massachusetts General Hospital to partner with Outside the Wire on its Theater of War performances for military and civilian audiences in twenty-five U.S. cities. And the Medical Center Department of Behavioral Sciences at Rush University received $175,000 to complete an efficacy trial of its mental health services and recruit and enroll additional veterans into the program.

BMSF’s giving in this area is interesting not just because it involvces significant sums of money, but because it’s rare to find a foundation so thoroughly covering such a niche cause as veterans’ affairs. Most foundations are dabblers— a little of this, a little of that. Maybe they like brain cancer but don’t fund post-treatment rehabilitation; maybe they fund diabetes research but not Type 2 diabetes research. BMSF’s veterans’ affairs giving is covering it all— post-combat integration, job skills, brain injury, and more. Makes us wonder what they’ll turn to next.