Cohen Brings Mental-health Care to Military Families

  • Medicine & Health
  • 2016

Steve Cohen had made billions of dollars as a hedge-fund manager when his son, Robert, decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. There was no draft or financial necessity for him to join, but he felt a calling to serve the nation in a time of war. After deploying to Afghanistan, Robert reported to his father that some of his friends and colleagues struggled with mental-health adjustments when they returned home.

The elder Cohen got involved. First, he co-chaired the Robin Hood Foundation’s $13 million fundraising for veterans in New York City. Then he put up $7 million to underwrite a free mental-health clinic in the city for vets and their families, and separately funded $17 million in PTSD research (see nearby 2013 entry). He had hoped to find an existing nonprofit he could fund to provide mental-health care across the country, but none quite fit the bill. So he launched his own.

In 2016, Cohen committed $325 million to help veterans, members of the National Guard and Reserves, and their families address mental-health needs. It was the single largest commitment of philanthropic support to Americans with military service. The lion’s share went to establishing the Cohen Veterans Network—a collection of roughly two dozen mental-health clinics around the country specially staffed and resourced to care for 25,000 patients annually. At least $30 million will be directed to Cohen Veterans Bioscience, a research organization dedicated to accelerating the development of diagnostics and treatments for traumatic stress and brain injuries.

Within a year, Cohen’s network had opened its first four locations. The clinics offer same-day enrollment and first appointments within a week—radically faster service than what’s offered by the V.A. They also provide services like transportation and childcare to make sure that patients face minimal barriers to treatment. And unlike the V.A., the Cohen clinics provide care to family members, and all veterans regardless of discharge status.

The clinics quickly found that most of the mental-health challenges that current and former servicemembers seek help for are not battle-related at all, but the same issues that affect the rest of us—like depression, guilt, family strife, anxiety. In addition to providing high-quality evidence-based treatment to patients, the Cohen clinics train new practitioners, and gather data that can be used to improve practices across all sites. And all of this comes at no cost to the veteran.