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‘We will have Veterans’ and military service members’ backs’: Rogers announces Fire Watch program

05/15/24 01:00:pm
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Dr. Rae Anne Ho Fung explains Fire Watch program’s name, meaning, and purpose

For Dr. Rae Anne Ho Fung, Rogers’ new Fire Watch program being designed for Veterans and military service members is a promise made reality.

She will closely oversee the development of the program, which will specifically target challenges unique to Veterans, such as moral injury as well as anxiety, depression, and trauma-related symptoms.

“The entire reason I went back to school to pursue a career in mental health was to serve Veterans, and it has been a marathon in terms of getting there,” says Dr. Ho Fung, PhD, executive director of clinical integration and an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran. “I’m excited to now take this huge step forward, delivering on the promise I’ve made to all of my brothers and sisters across Wisconsin. It feels really good to deliver on my word.”

She says there is special meaning behind the words chosen for the program’s name, too; “Fire Watch” refers to a shift assigned in the military, when a sentry keeps watch overnight to ensure no incident such as a fire occurs. It’s a responsibility and promise Dr. Ho Fung intends to carry out through Rogers’ mental health services.

“When it comes to the term ‘fire watch,’ people who know, know,” Dr. Ho Fung says. “The name and principle, to me, means that we will have Veterans’ and military service members’ backs 24/7.”

Made possible by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA), the virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP) will meet three hours a day, five days per week, for four to six weeks.

“For those who have served, it is crucial to have accessible and affordable mental health treatment when they need it,” says WDVA Secretary-designee James Bond. “I’m grateful to community partners like Rogers Behavioral Health, who are creating thoughtful and targeted programs that consider the unique needs of our state’s veterans. With a network of mental health care professionals across the state, Wisconsin veterans will have more resources to live their best civilian life.”

Bond joined Rogers’ leaders May 2 at the West Allis clinic for a WDVA check presentation.

“Our goal at Rogers is to create a culture of care for those with lived experience in service who have a combination of mental health concerns," says Cindy Meyer, MSSW, Rogers’ president and CEO. “We are drawing upon our own proven treatments as well as other successful programs for Veterans and service members to design the most effective, accessible program possible. That includes an emphasis on trauma-informed care, strong support systems, and strengthening partnerships with other Veterans organizations and community resources. We hope Fire Watch is just the beginning of expanded offerings for Veterans and service members.”

Rogers Behavioral Health Foundation secured the grant with the expertise of Dr. Ho Fung and Elizabeth Erickson, vice president of operations for West Allis.

Fire Watch is expected to start offering services by early August.

“The Fire Watch program will fill unmet needs in our state and offer accessible services to an underserved community dear to my heart,” says Dr. Ho Fung. “We are committed to building trust with Veterans and service members, as well as designing the program specifically for them so we can provide the high-quality care they deserve. This is a huge milestone. I’m deeply grateful for the WDVA grant, and I couldn’t be more excited for Fire Watch to begin serving fellow Veterans.”

For the program, Rogers will hire team members who have the necessary skills, understand military culture, and are passionate about serving this population. If you or someone you know would be a good fit, please contact Dr. Ho Fung at raeanne.hofung@rogersbh.org.

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