247813 Maryland's Commitment to Veterans: An audience-centered communication campaign to increase veterans' access to mental health services

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 9:30 AM

Marcela Aguilar, MHS , Strategic Communications and Marketing Division, ICF Macro, Rockville, MD
In 2008, the Maryland General Assembly funded “Maryland's Commitment to Veterans,” a program to help veterans access mental and behavioral health services. Veterans reach local Regional Resource Coordinators (RRCs) through a toll-free helpline. RRCs then connect callers to substance abuse treatment, individual, family, and group counseling, and local, state, and federal resources.

In 2009, MCV conducted formative research to inform a communication campaign that would promote their helpline. Focus groups with veterans, their friends, and family members were held across Maryland to explore barriers to seeking mental and behavioral health services, test campaign concepts and messages, and elicit recommendations for distributing campaign materials.

MCV developed a brand, creative concept, and message set that are forward looking and aspirational. They are meant to combat the negative stereotypes of veterans in the media, provide an entry point to behavioral and mental health services, and reflect that this is a Maryland-based initiative. The campaign concept and messages were further refined based on the results of online focus groups.

The campaign was launched on Veterans Day in 2009 and used mass media and out-of-home advertising to drive audiences to the MCV helpline. Radio alone reached close to 2.2 million people and out-of-home placements reached over 130,000 each day. In the months following the launch, the number of calls to the helpline increased by 150% and website hits increased an average of 85%.

The campaign is now in its second year and is focusing its efforts on online media and partnership development.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the barriers that veterans and their family members face in seeking mental and behavioral health services. 2. Describe the campaign concept developed by Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans to provide an entry point to behavioral and mental health services. 3. List communication channels that are best suited to reach veterans and their families.

Keywords: Veterans, Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to be an abstract author on the content because I was the program manager in charge of developing, testing, and implementing the Maryland's Commitment to Veterans communication campaign.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.