Dear Friends of Home Base,
When German soldiers emerged from their trenches on Christmas Day 1914 and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, Allied soldiers feared they were being tricked. But when the Germans called out “Merry Christmas” in the Allied soldiers’ native tongues, something remarkable happened. Known as the Christmas Truce of 1914, the soldiers shook hands, exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, and sang carols. Some even played soccer. For a moment in time, enemies came together as friends—a glimmer of hope set against the bleak backdrop of the Great War, and a reminder of the good in all of us.
In the ongoing war against COVID-19, our “Christmas Truces” have come in many forms. Although the impact of the pandemic has been profound—Home Base sustained a 20% reduction in funding—we have been both honored and humbled by the outpouring of support. And despite the new challenges we have faced, together we have found a way to continue providing life-saving care to Veterans, Service Members, and Families from across the nation.
I want to begin this note by thanking the incredible staff at Home Base for continuing to care for our Veterans and their families throughout this pandemic crisis. From the pivot to telehealth to the reopening of our intensive clinical programs, a great deal of work went into ensuring our patients received safe and effective care. Home Base was one of the first programs to fully reopen at Mass General. This meant our team had to leave their comfort zones for this in-person care and develop innovative solutions to ensure everyone’s safety. Special thanks to Home Base team members (clinicians to support team members) who volunteered to support the Boston Hope field hospital which was one of the largest concentrations of COVID positive people in New England. Finally, I want to thank each of you for stepping up and demonstrating your commitment to Home Base and the people we support. Listed below we have provided some of the “Good News” stories for this difficult year.
As COVID-19 began to spread, our team worked quickly to develop new virtual and telehealth options to increase patient access across Massachusetts. The accelerated speed of change during this pandemic has been stunning. One silver lining of this terrible time has been the explosion and proven effectiveness of telehealth. Home Base grew from ~ 1% to 100% telehealth visits for the Outpatient Clinic literally overnight. Although there are still barriers to allowing licensed clinicians to provide critical care for Veterans across state lines, we are working hard to establish permanent interstate compacts that will allow Veterans anywhere in the country to access treatment.
When stay-at-home orders were mandated across most of the country, Home Base immediately recognized the need for virtual health and wellness programming. In April, Home Base launched Operation Health@Home, an online platform that brings essential coaching strategies in fitness, nutrition, mindfulness, and mental health. This exclusive content from Home Base experts has reached more than 8,500 people this year. Home Base staff members from both Boston and Southwest Florida worked together to contribute more than 200 pieces of content this year.
On March 1st, I was tapped by Governor Baker to lead the build-out and operations of Boston Hope, the 1,000-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients constructed inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, I was joined by more than 50 Home Base staff members who went above and beyond their core missional duties to serve on the frontlines of the pandemic and care for more than 700 COVID-19 patients. Fifty-three days after the field hospital opened its doors, on June 2, the last patient was discharged from Boston Hope. The innovative solutions developed at Boston Hope, provided us with great insights into ways in which we could leverage technology to safely reopen Home Base.
ICP REOPENS (& WELCOMES 100TH ICP COHORT and 1,000th PATIENT)
In March 2020 the virus continued to spread, and we made the difficult decision to suspend all in-person programs at Home Base—including our two-week Intensive Clinical Program (ICP). Our team quickly pivoted to ensure that our patients continued to receive vital mental health care services online, while simultaneously working diligently to prepare our Boston headquarters for a safe reopening. Home Base officially reopened in July, and on July 6th, and within 4 weeks we welcomed our 100th ICP cohort to our National Center and reached full operational capability with 24 veterans arriving every 2 weeks moving forward.
Home Base also successfully reopened several other in-person offerings, including the Comprehensive Brain Health and Trauma (ComBHaT) Program and the two-week Intensive Clinical Program for Families of the Fallen. More than 66 Veterans and Service Members completed the ComBHaT program in 2020, while 27 Family Members participated in the Families of the Fallen program this year.
Notably, our Southwest Florida Clinic has been able to stay open throughout 2020.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION
In 2020, we made a lot of promising progress at Home Base in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space. We formally established a Diversity Committee, developed goals and objectives, identified how these goals contribute to our overall mission, held several trainings and seminars, and identified a subject matter expert organization to partner with. We are committed to ensuring Home Base is a safe place for all Veterans, Service Members, and Families to receive care.
VIRTUAL RUN TO HOME BASE, BOSTON MARATHON, MARINE CORPS MARATHON
On September 26, 2020, Home Base held its 11th annual Run to Home Base presented by New Balance 5K/9K as a virtual fundraising event. Originally scheduled for Fenway Park in July, Home Base made the difficult decision to postpone and “reimagine” the event out of health and safety concerns. Although the 2020 Run to Home Base looked—and felt—different than years past, the reimagined event proved to be as inspiring as ever. A total of 2,010 participants from 40 states raised $1.2M in support of Home Base’s mission to heal the invisible wounds of war for Veterans and their Families. Included in the participants were more than 522 Service Members and Veterans, 338 Military Family Members, and 1,150 civilians.
The Boston Marathon and Marine Corps Marathon were also held virtually. Despite the added challenge of running 26.2 miles alone, 12 runners—including Warrior Health & Fitness Athletic Trainer Christopher Manzano, MPS, ATC, CSCS, TSAC-F, and Clinical Social Worker Erika Lundgren, MSW, LCSW—committed to running the Boston Marathon for Home Base, raising more than $17K. And four runners—including Chief Operating Officer Michael Allard and Associate Director of Development Jason Cooper—completed the Marine Corps Marathon in their hometowns.
VETERANS DAY TELEVISION SPECIAL
We had an incredible Veterans Day Televent on WCVB Channel 5. Thanks to our generous supporters, this event raised more than $433K to support some of our crucial and underfunded programs to include our Traumatic Brain Injury programs and the Families of the Fallen.
NO SHAVE SURPASSES $1M
Despite the difficulties of 2020, our annual No Shave campaign was a major success, officially raising $1M since 2015. Founded and championed by MBTA Transit Police/Boston Gang Unit Detective Kurt J. Power, U.S. Army Veteran, Purple Heart recipient, and proud graduate of Home Base, this campaign raises awareness and funds for the critical, life-saving care Home Base provides to Veterans and Families. More than 144 teams—including 132 Police Departments—participated, raising an impressive $209K in support of our mission.
Most importantly of all, more than 1,357 Veterans, Service Members, and their Families found healing and hope at Home Base in 2020.
The road ahead may feel daunting—for Home Base, and for all those we serve—but when I reflect on 2020, I cannot help but feel hopeful. For all the social distancing, this year has served as a poignant reminder that the community we have built together over the last 11 years is stronger than ever. Together, we will transcend any trenches we find ourselves in, and we will continue to find our “Christmas Truces” throughout any challenge we face.
On behalf of our esteemed partners, the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital, and our entire Home Base team, thank you for all that you did to support our organization in 2020. And to our nation’s Service Members, Veterans and Families, we stand by you and we stand with you—today, and always. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. Your mission is complete, but ours has just begun.
Brigadier General (Ret) Jack Hammond
Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program