VA employee recipient of the Rita Gillick Award | Community

CHILLICOTHE – Tisha Hardin, Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist at Chillicothe VA Medical Center, is the recipient of the 2021 Rita Gillick Award for Mental Health Advocate of the Year.

The Rita Gillick Mental Health Advocacy Award was established in 1986 in honor and memory of Rita Gillick, one of the early advocates for people with mental illness. Gillick was hospitalized for over 25 years of her life and upon her release she became a founding member of The Gathering Place.

She was known statewide as an advocate for client rights and consumer-centric services and served on the Athens-Hocking-Vinton Community Mental Health Council for six years. The award is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates Rita Gillick’s overwhelming desire to never stop in her efforts to advocate for the rights of people with mental illness.

Ms. Hardin was nominated and selected by the Athens-Hocking-Vinton Alcohol, Drug Addiction, Addiction and Mental Health Services Council for her dedication and commitment to serving people with mental illness and veterans. involved in justice as part of the VA’s Veterans Awareness (VJO) program. .

The Department of Veterans Affairs developed the Veterans Justice Awareness (VJO) program with the goal of avoiding unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and prolonged incarceration among veterans. The initiative ensures that eligible veterans in contact with the criminal justice system have access to VA mental health and addiction services.

The Veterans Justice Awareness Program has three focus areas: courts and lawyers, law enforcement and prisons.

The VJO provides information and education on veterans issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as the services available. VJO works with communities to develop and implement veterans treatment courts for participating and interested communities.

These courts deal with the issues of defendants with specific needs or circumstances that are not adequately addressed in the traditional justice system. They often reduce the costs of running the justice system by lowering readmission rates. Veterans Courts connect veteran accused with necessary services in a supportive, veteran-centered environment.

Through VJO, training is provided to law enforcement on veterans issues and strategies to help work with veterans. This connection is another promising avenue for connecting veterans involved in justice with the mental health, addiction and other services they need. The VJO and clinical staff train law enforcement staff on issues specific to ex-combatants, including PTSD and TBI. VJO also acts as a resource for law enforcement as needed.

VJO is developing communication with prisons to identify veterans who are incarcerated and to engage veterans in the services available upon release. VJO provides services to veterans involved in justice in the communities they serve. In communities where relevant justice programs for veterans exist (veterans courts, mental health and substance abuse courts), VJO takes the initiative to establish working relationships to ensure that veterans eligible persons involved in justice obtain the necessary care.

In communities where such programs do not exist, VJO contacts potential partners in the justice system to match eligible veterans involved in justice with VA services.

Available health services may include:

• Assistance with VA eligibility and registration

• Inpatient and outpatient medical care

• Home and retirement home care

• Specialized care for female veterans

• Mental health services, including rehabilitation counseling, substance abuse treatment, occupational therapy, intimate partner violence therapy, recidivism therapy, case management and treatment of PTSD

• Counseling and treatment for military sexual trauma (MST)

For more information on the VJO program, contact Tisha Hardin at 740-542-9461.

Visit the Chillicothe VA webpage ( and follow it on facebook ( and twitter (@chillicothevamc).

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