The Better Together series highlights some of our most dynamic partnerships across Unite Us’ first decade. For over 10 years, we have been expanding what’s possible, bringing sectors together to achieve whole-person health for every member in our communities. Hear from those partners and learn how you can join us to unlock the potential of your community.
Veterans Services of the Carolinas (VSC) is one of seven ministries within the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM). ABCCM, a faith-based nonprofit in Asheville, North Carolina, has been addressing poverty, hunger, homelessness, and access to healthcare for the underserved in Buncombe County for over 52 years. VSC currently employs seven major federal and state grants across all 100 counties in North Carolina and maintains four major offices in Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, and Jacksonville.
These grants include NCServes, the state’s first service coordination platform for veteran service members and their families—also funded by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. VSC’s mission is to assist our nation’s veterans and their families by identifying their needs and connecting them to community partners across North Carolina with a veteran-centric and whole-person approach to care.
One Client’s Story
A U.S. Navy Veteran fleeing domestic violence with her young children found herself in a community crisis ministry receiving much-needed supplies as she restarted her life. Through a community partner referral, she connected with the NCServes Coordination Center. VSC effectively and promptly utilized braided funding streams to address multiple areas of need using federal and state dollars. This client was enrolled in employment and housing programs that enabled her to continue her education and move into her own home with her children. By leveraging other community providers through the network, the client received support for additional needs, such as food, clothing, child care, and transportation.
This was not the end of her story: Less than two years after the most life-changing crisis she had ever experienced, this same veteran obtained a job in veterans affairs and purchased her own home! Recently, this veteran recognized that she wanted to give back, and she accepted a position with Veterans Services of the Carolinas.
For this series, we asked Brandon Wilson, Director of Veterans Services of the Carolinas, about our work together and their vision of how cross-sector collaboration creates lasting change for veterans and their families.
As we reflect on a decade bringing sectors together through technology to ensure people’s needs are met, what do you think has changed the most for your organization since the start of our partnership in 2017?
The ability to see the landscape of care at macro levels, local, regional, and nationally. This lens has allowed us to become better leaders in the community and solidified some best practices for us, through us, and with the community at large.
Unite Us has been instrumental in our aptitude as a community-based organization to scale programs, build organizational capacity, and improve the overall efficiency and efficacy in which services are delivered to our military connected communities. I would describe our partnership as more like a family. Over the last seven years, Unite Us has not only offered state-of-the-art technology that has transformed the landscape of social services delivery, they have provided invaluable coaching, mentorship, and—at times—strategic direction. This type of partnership has afforded our team the ability to stretch at the individual, team, and community levels. At a macro level and in combination with these attributes, we have grown from a $750k-a-year organization to over a $9M-a-year portfolio of direct service programs that continues to grow and is working to bring other servant leaders together to improve the overall health of all North Carolinians.
How does VSC think about or approach collaboration with other sectors? What are the benefits to the veterans and families you serve and to your mission?
Veterans Services of the Carolinas uses deliberate strategies for community engagement through data-informed processes. VSC views data trends over time to determine not only the communities on which we focus engagement efforts, but particular service types as well. The data-reporting capabilities of Unite Us enable our organization to focus our outreach and community-building efforts on areas and services most needed while also being a good steward of our state and federal dollars. Being able to stretch and allocate resources based on real-time information has been key to our organizational growth. Integrating the Unite Us Platform with all of our direct service programs has assisted in procuring additional funding streams and opportunities for growth. With the approvals from U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, this integration has now become a regular, standard operating procedure for all of our programs.
Are there any upcoming programs or initiatives related to drivers of health and community health at VSC that you are excited about?
With the launch of the joint analytics project, we are excited to explore innovative approaches to proactive outreach using Unite Us’ Social Connector. VSC is working diligently to change the entry point for individuals in need into health and human services systems. We are already seeing an overall cost reduction as we are able to address future hardships today; this methodology is proving to put less strain on case managers and grant programs alike. Through this project, we are building stronger assumption models and generating enhanced upstream strategies that are preventing homelessness, unemployment, and mental health challenges across the delta of care.
Looking another 10 years into the future, what is your biggest hope for cross-sector collaboration to improve community health?
The biggest hope is that our communities can work to cross-pollinate all services and resources through the Unite Us Platform. This hope will improve the overall health and care of our communities through improved access at both the individual and provider levels, a widened sense of transparency, and enhanced way of targeting the best first use of local resources.
What thoughts would you share with Unite Us leadership as they look out on the next 10 years?
The partnerships that Unite Us fosters and forms with its community stakeholders are imperative to community growth. Unite Us’ strategy of growing communities from within should continue to be a point of focus to ensure their teams are embedded in the communities they support. Unite Us should continue to keep in mind that each local community is different on many levels across the drivers-of-health spectrum and that the model and technology is just a tool. Real impact and change happen at the individual level. We believe that Unite Us’ incentivizing community partners and positive recognition of their adoption, resilience, and work can accelerate ambassadors for change. Another strategy is the integration of other data systems at a macro level, such as the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), state data systems, and Veterans Affairs.
For more information about Veterans Services of the Carolinas, visit https://www.abccm-vsc.org/.
Interested in learning more about how to bring Unite Us to your organization?
About Unite Us
Unite Us is the nation’s leading software company bringing sectors together to improve the health and well-being of communities. We drive the collaboration to identify, deliver, and pay for services that impact whole-person health. Through Unite Us’ national network and software, community-based organizations, government agencies, and healthcare organizations are all connected to better collaborate to meet the needs of the individuals in their communities.