Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Charleston VA wins Shark Tank Competition
On October 30, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center was selected as one of the winners of the 2020 Veterans Health Administration Shark Tank Competition for their Voluntary Service Curbside Delivery Program. More than 400 entries were submitted to this national competition that demonstrates innovation in caring for Veterans and solving tough challenges across VHA. This year’s practices help address needs in six priority areas for VHA: Access, Health Care After COVID-19, High Reliability Culture Change: Commit to Zero Harm; Rural Women Veterans: A Diverse Community; Veteran and Employee Experience, and Upstream Suicide Prevention. Charleston VA submitted in the Veteran and Employee Experience category.
To meet the growing needs resulting from unexpected economic and physical hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, Charleston VAMC’s Voluntary Service created the Curbside Delivery Program. A first-of-its-kind in the VA health care system, the program uses vans from Disabled American Veterans, which normally transport patients, to transport food pantry, hygiene kits, and other critical items to vulnerable Veteran patients who are sequestered and unable to leave their homes. Since it was operationalized on April 1, 2020, the program has served more than 500 Veterans while simultaneously keeping volunteers safely engaged.
“Food insecurity is a significant issue for some of our Veteran patients, and we know that the economic fallout from COVID-19 has made things worse for this group,” said Charleston VAMC Voluntary Service Program Manager Sue Kerver. “We have Veterans who struggle with the tough choice of paying rent or buying groceries, so our team launched the Curbside Delivery program as a way to minimize these hard decisions and take away barriers to care that food insecurity and isolation can create.”
The program utilizes more than 12 volunteers that run routes from Hinesville, Georgia up the coast to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. To-date more than $200,000 in in-kind and monetary donations have been made directly to Charleston VAMC earmarked for the curbside delivery service.
“Through this program, we’ve been able to reengage our volunteers and connect with our community in ways we could never have imagined,” said Kerver.
Charleston VAMC has now reintegrated the Voluntary Transport Program, which helps Veterans get to and from appointments on the DAV vans. Voluntary Service has been successful in concurrently running the transport program and the Curbside Delivery Service. The intent is to keep both program running successfully, and to keep the Curbside Delivery Service as a long-term option for those Veterans in need.Since 2016, Shark Tank has identified 59 Promising Practices which impact Veterans’ lives every day. As a winner, Charleston VAMC now has the opportunity to collaborate with other VA’s nationwide to replicate the program, including the Phoenix VA Health Care System. The expansion of this practice will positively impact vulnerable Veterans across the country.