Veteran and Military Navigator Program
In 2016, the State of Michigan created the Veteran and Military Family Navigator Program to assist the more than 634,000 veterans living in the state and family members. The first service of this type in the nation, it works to identify, connect and engage them to mental health, substance use and other community resources.
There are 25 offices throughout the state. More than 24,000 veterans live in Bay, Midland and Saginaw Counties, and the Navigator Program office covering this area is located at the main building of Saginaw County Community Mental Health Authority. It has been directed since 2021 by Matthew Clark, a five-year veteran of the Michigan Army National Guard.
Clark said the program “finds those individuals and their family members who are falling between the cracks of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and community mental health agencies, and we help them find the resources they need to reinforce healthier lifestyles.”
Services and support provided include mental health care, substance use disorder treatment, peer support, healthcare, housing, VA benefits, education assistance, family and caregiver support, employment, transportation, transitioning back home and state assistance programs.
“This is very hands-on” he explained. “I’ll meet veterans and family members anywhere – whether it’s in the office, at their homes or in the community – so they’re comfortable and I can help them.”
There are currently about 30 consumers participating locally. Clark also spends his time strengthening relationships with community resource partners, and he has developed a training program on military cultural competency, intended to provide mental health care staff and other professionals with basic knowledge about the culture of the U.S. military and better equip them to serve veterans and their families.
“Many veterans and family members are reluctant to reach out and ask,” he added. “The Navigator Program exists to help this neglected at-risk population. We address the neglect and provide support. And we truly make a difference.”
For more information on the Veteran and Military Navigator Program, contact SCCMHA at (800) 258-8678.