The VHA Innovators Network (iNET) InnoVAtor of the Month for August is Dr. Keisha Ross of the VA St. Louis Health Care System and Dr. Maurice Endsley of the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. Dr. Ross and Dr. Endsley lead the Race-Based Stress and Trauma (RBST) and Empowerment (RBSTE) program. The program tackles RBST from two different angles: provider and patient.

“Vets of color needed a space to process their individual and collective experiences so that they could begin healing. In order to heal, Veterans also needed providers who could learn about race-based stress and trauma (RBST),” explained Dr. Ross.

When first launched in 2014, RBSTE was only half of the solution. The program provided an RBST therapy group for Veterans of color. These groups provide a safe space to discuss experiences with racism and discrimination, find peer support and facilitate coping. The group incorporates and appropriately modifies evidence-based practices from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness and empowerment-focused approaches. They are a success, with Veteran participants saying they are finding the support and care they need.

As demand for the program grew, however, it was clear that training for VA providers across the country was needed. Dr. Ross and Dr. Endsley, with support from iNET, began rolling out provider-RBSTE to other VA facilities across the country. The training, used mainly by psychologists and social workers, focuses on the assessment and treatment of RBST. This includes monthly consultation calls to train providers in the RBSTE protocol, as well as the provision of centralized resources, including the RBSTE manual, marketing materials and session templates.

Since its launch, Dr. Ross and Dr. Endsley have adapted the program into a modular approach so that it can be integrated into a wide range of clinical settings within VA mental health services. The ease of adaptation has led to the spread of RBSTE to more than 20 VA sites and counting, helping Veterans of color confront the mental health challenges they face from racism.

As one Veteran said after participating, “[This is the] first time I felt comfortable in my black skin.”

More information

iNET is proud to support employee-driven innovations like RBSTE. You can learn more about how iNET is creating an army of frontline VHA employee innovators. Follow the VHA Innovation Ecosystem on Facebook and Twitter each month, as a new employee innovator is showcased as the InnoVAtor of the Month every month.

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Published on Aug. 31, 2020

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