Jennifer Christman has spent her career dedicated to bringing behavioral health and wellness services to rural and underserved populations through distance and telehealth platforms. Twelve years ago, she was instrumental in launching VetAdvisor, a telehealth platform providing behavioral health, wellness, career, and financial services to veterans and returning service members. Because this population is often isolated and rural, and because VA services are often challenging for them to access, VetAdvisor was designed to complement VA services, allowing veterans access to needed coaching where and when those services were needed. Over the years Jennifer has worked to expand VetAdvisor’s offerings beyond the VA, as an employee assistance program for private sector
companies, as a tool to help higher education institutions attract and retain student veterans, as an integral part of veterans’ court services, and ultimately as a model for behavioral health and coaching services offered to all uniformed personnel in high-stress jobs who would benefit from VetAdvisor’s expertise working with at-risk populations. Many of these at-risk populations live in rural areas and lack access to needed behavioral health and wellness services. VetAdvisor provides distance coaching to rural, at-risk populations using an interactive platform that combines high-tech digital management with real time high-touch personalized coaching. Under Jennifer’s leadership, VetAdvisor has become known as a leader through its technological approach to service delivery, engagement, and case management, and has demonstrated the ways integrated telehealth coaching can prove effective in reaching these underserved populations and break down the barriers to rural care access.
After five successful years helping veterans and returning service members during their transition to civilian life, Jennifer realized that VetAdvisor services were needed not only as a complement to VA offerings but by veterans interacting with all organizations and institutions. She helped develop VetAdvisor for the private sector, working with a Fortune 100 company and with a large state university to offer student veterans and veteran employees the assistance needed for them to succeed in their career and educational paths. In 2013, VetAdvisor was contracted by the Cambria County, PA District Attorney to develop tele-behavioral health and wellness services for the Cambria County Veterans Treatment Court. Jennifer was instrumental in the development, organization, and launch of this court, and VetAdvisor services have successfully helped reduce veteran recidivism over the past five years.
SERVICE TO THE CITIZEN AWARD WINNERS
CHIEF & EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT BEHAVIORAL HEALTH PROGRAMS
Through her work designing programs for student veterans, Jennifer understood that educational program retention and completion is a challenge, particularly for programs aimed at rural or at-risk populations. So she devised one possible solution to this problem: supplemental holistic health and wellness coaching offered as an integrated part of the educational experience. Texas A&M’s Battleground to Breaking Ground Entrepreneurial Training Project aims to increase the numbers of beginning farmers and ranchers by providing veterans the resources they need to succeed in this field. Those making the transition to civilian life often need support beyond the classroom, so through Jennifer’s leadership Texas A&M partnered with VetAdvisor to improve program outcomes by offering participants access to proactive and ongoing coaching support across behavioral health and wellness. Since July, 2017, VetAdvisor coaches have provided program participants financial coaching; support for the challenges faced by those with disabilities, TBI, and PTSD; stress and time management training; work/life balance training; and sleep hygiene assistance. VetAdvisor coaches also provide webinars that tie hand-in-hand with educational materials that are used in the program.
Jennifer is currently working to develop MyAdvisor, an expansion of VetAdvisor services to professionals in uniform who routinely witness life-threatening and life-changing events and human disasters. She is utilizing lessons learned developing VetAdvisor to offer the same high-tech, high-touch approach to integrated behavioral health and wellness to increase resiliency in civilian populations that serve in high-stress professions (EMT, police, crisis care, firefighters, educators, etc.). She is once again going above and beyond in helping rural and at-risk populations access the behavioral health and wellness services they need to thrive.
In addition, Jennifer has been for years been a member of the National Association for Rural Mental Health (NARMH), and a member of the American Counseling Association and the Saint Francis University Social Work Advisory Board. She has been an NARMH board member, President-Elect, and is currently serving as that organization’s President. She also gives back to her profession by regularly speaking at conferences such as EAPA World Conference, the American Public Health Association annual meeting, and at various regional conferences and meetings. Her determination to transform the services accessed by veterans and rural and at-risk populations through the use of technology is unparalleled, as has been the effect her work has had on the lives of so many of those who were in need.
Jenn supervises call center staff in Richland, PA, Ebensburg, PA and West Virginia totaling approximately 90 employees. They have completed over 250,000 coaching sessions under her supervision, while over 600,000 unique phone interactions with clients have been logged over the past five years. This has resulted in a 98% client satisfaction rate. More importantly, over 85% of veterans accomplished their goals when working with the VetAdvisor coaching staff, 25% of whom increased their quality of life satisfaction score after consultation and follow-up with a care representative. Jenn and her team obtained recently AAS (American Association of Suicidology) three-year certification as another way to serve veterans and other at-risk uniformed personnel.