The New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) has launched two programs aimed at training veterans to help other veterans navigate the complexities of health care delivery and health insurance.

Veterans will receive instruction on becoming health care navigators – who then will be stationed in high-need areas to assist other veterans with such tasks as enrolling in health insurance plans, obtaining referrals for screenings and other health services, accessing behavioral health services and connecting with social service agencies.

“It’s a sad reality that our returning veterans all too often fall through the cracks of our health care delivery system,” said NJHA President and CEO Betsy Ryan. “The need for behavioral health support is particularly high. We are fortunate to have a corps of compassionate and committed veterans join us in a new call to service.” The association announced the initiative Nov. 9, the day before Veterans Day.

New Jersey is home to more than 428,000 veterans. According to NJHA, nearly 19,200 N.J. veterans lack health insurance and about 27% are registered to receive care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The hospital association’s initiative has two parts:

• The Veterans Mental Health Care Navigators project, funded in part by a $1.4 million grant from the United Health Foundation, is a three-year project to offer peer support to veterans and military families in need of behavioral health services in areas such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. NJHA’s employed veterans will be trained in “mental health first aid” and help veterans and their families access needed screenings, services and social support. The navigators will be involved in outreach programs with veterans groups and be stationed in health care sites. The program will be focused on the high-need areas of Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties. Burlington County is home to the Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst, which was formed in Browns Mills in 2009 through the merger of the Air Force’s McGuire Air Force Base, the Army’s Fort Dix and the Navy’s Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst.

• The Community-Based Pilot Project to Reduce Readmissions, funded as part of a $1.8 million contract under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Partnership for Patients initiative, will train veterans as health coaches. The program uses a data-driven process to identify trends in the use of health care services, particularly in the emergency department (ED), and then seeks to help patients navigate the system more efficiently— using primary care and preventive services, rather than seeking care in the ED. The project will have a special focus on helping veterans and other New Jersey residents manage behavioral health services and chronic conditions.

NJHA expects to hire 10 veterans to staff the two programs.

The initiative builds on the association’s ongoing effort to train veterans to help others get low-cost health coverage during the open enrollment period that runs through Jan. 31. NJHA trained 25 veterans in 2013 to help consumers explore health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.

The AHA’s “Get Enrolled” page, has links to an extensive collection of AHA, national and state-specific resources to support your hospital’s enrollment effort.