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Building partnerships with rural Arkansas faith communities to promote veterans' mental health: lessons learned.

Sullivan G, Hunt J, Haynes TF, Bryant K, Cheney AM, Pyne JM, Reaves C, Sullivan S, Lewis C, Barnes B, Barnes M, Hudson C, Jegley S, Larkin B, Russell S, White P, Gilmore L, Claypoole S, Smith J, Richison R. Building partnerships with rural Arkansas faith communities to promote veterans' mental health: lessons learned. Progress in community health partnerships : research, education, and action. 2014 Jan 1; 8(1):11-9.

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BACKGROUND: The Mental Health-Clergy Partnership Program established partnerships between institutional (Department of Veterans' Affairs [VA] chaplains, mental health providers) and community (local clergy, parishioners) groups to develop programs to assist rural veterans with mental health needs. OBJECTIVES: Describe the development, challenges, and lessons learned from the Mental Health-Clergy Partnership Program in three Arkansas towns between 2009 and 2012. METHODS: Researchers identified three rural Arkansas sites, established local advisory boards, and obtained quantitative ratings of the extent to which partnerships were participatory. RESULTS: Partnerships seemed to become more participatory over time. Each site developed distinctive programs with variation in fidelity to original program goals. Challenges included developing trust and maintaining racial diversity in local program leadership. CONCLUSIONS: Academics can partner with local faith communities to create unique programs that benefit the mental health of returning veterans. Research is needed to determine the effectiveness of community based programs, especially relative to typical "top-down" outreach approaches.

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