Cards for Connection
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Cards for Connection makes it easier for Veterans to access VA resources by literally putting the numbers they most need in their hands, and they benefit employees conducting outreach with Veterans as they provide a durable resource that Veterans are more likely to hold onto. The cards are inexpensive, easy to carry, and discreet. Cards are non-stigmatizing, easy to use, familiar for Veterans, and provide repeated exposure to coping skills and critical VA resources, leading to increased access to VA services.
September 2017, Palo Alto VA Medical Center-Menlo Park (Palo Alto Menlo Park)
Awards and Recognition:
2018 Audience Choice Award at the VISN 1 5th Annual Improvement & Innovation Summit, iNET Seed Investee, iNet Spark Award Investee
- 45,000 Veterans have received the cards
- 92% of recipients said they were a Veteran (from anonymous postcard included with card deck)
- 84% of recipients said they had played with the cards
- 85% of recipients said they had used some of the skills on the cards
- 30% of recipients said they had used some of the phone numbers on the cards
- 4.45: Average rating of the cards, on a scale of 1 (Hate them) to 5 (Love them)
- Favorite card messages: I can do this/I have a purpose/I am worth it.
Does not include Clinical Resource Hubs (CRH)
During a Human-Centered Design workshop hosted by Drs. Kayt Havens and Shannon McCaslin, we fleshed out the idea for Cards for Connection using content from discovery interviews with two Veterans who work with homeless Veterans, one of whom had previously experienced homelessness. By the end of the workshop we had our first prototype and enough of an idea to start interviews with key stakeholders, to assess acceptability and feasibility for the idea.
We received our first real decks in August 2018. That fall, we conducted focus groups with homeless Veterans living in residential programs to see how they used the cards, and several spontaneously sorted them to identify their favorites. These are the cards selected by one Veteran.
Shortly after the card decks arrived, a Peer Support Specialist came to visit Katie to pick up some decks to distribute. He had helped to generate content for the cards, and this was his first time seeing the professionally produced decks. As he flipped through the cards, he landed on this one and showed it to Katie, saying, "Thank you. You made this happen, and you should be proud of how many people you're going to help."
Current versions of the cards, in a durable plastic case, with a mini permanent marker that can be used to write on the cards (e.g., "Write the number of a local resource or person who can help you. ____________").
This pitch video was produced in 2018 to describe the idea. Since then, we have produced and distributed over 2,000 decks at more than 13 locations. In 2019, we will order and distribute 13,000 decks at VAs and Vet Centers across the country.
1 monthIdentify where (in which services) to disseminate cards, provide overview of purpose to staff
2-3 monthsOrder cards and personalize insert
Variable, depends on how many decks are ordered - likely 2-3 weeksAssemble decks and inserts
Variable, depends on how many decks are ordered and in how many locations they are distributedDistribute decks
- Mental health care
- Social work
- Addiction and substance abuse treatment
- Recreation and creative arts therapy
- Suicide prevention
- Whole health
- Homeless Veteran care
|Resource type||Resource description|
- This infographic describes the state of the project after the first year. Infographic
- This infographic describes the current state of the project. 2022 Infographic
- This blog describes Veteran reactions to Cards for Connection. VAntage Point blog post about the cards
- This podcast details the Cards for Connection project. Podcast interview: Cards for Connection on the Rocky Mountain MIRECC's Short Takes on Suicide Prevention
Risks and mitigations
|Veterans may not like the cards.||In our experience to date this has not been an issue, but if a Veteran doesn't like them they can receive information via paper brochures or online.|
|Staff may be unsure of how to use the cards.||We are creating a 1-2 page implementation guide to highlight how the cards can be used with Veterans (beyond just handing them out, although that is an option).|
|Staff may be unwilling to distribute cards.||To date we have worked with site champions who have been very enthusiastic about the cards, and they have spread that enthusiasm to other staff. The "opt in" approach exempts those not interested in distributing them.|
Comments and replies are disabled for retired innovations and non-VA users.
Email RockyMountainMIRECC@va.gov with questions about this innovation.
Peer Support Specialist
Rocky Mountain MIRECC POC
This is great. These human-centered design projects are a fantastic way for veterans to share their knowledge and solutions with the VA.
We are currently adopting this practice in association with Whole Health
I brought this up to our VA-PRRC team and we need to know the vendor for this item to see about getting this approved for our program. How do I find this out and are they on the SAMs approved vendor list?
Hi Sydney! You can now order these directly from the MIRECC website for free. They "sold out" very quickly, but keep an eye on the site for when they become available again! https://www.mirecc.va.gov/visn19/orderform/orderform.asp
I can see this being used in all the inpatient psych wards. I think that they would be great at the Fisher Houses also to keep veterans families engaged.
Hi Jamie, that's a great suggestion! I will add this to my list of potential uses for the cards. Thanks!
This seems like a very interesting approach and a resource our team would be very interested in learning more about.
Hi Kimberly, thanks for reaching out! I'd be happy to share an infographic on the project, which captures some of the feedback we've received. Please feel free to email me (Email this support team, above) for more information. Thanks!