Operation Hope - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


Operation Hope


Operation Hope logo

  1. Is there a difference between a normal mental illness and serious mental illness?

    There is not a specific distinction between normal and serious mental illness because mental disorders are part of a continuum. It’s really about how severe the impact on emotions, thoughts, relationships and daily functioning.

  2. What is considered a serious mental illness?  

    Mental illness is the term used for all mental disorders . These health conditions impair functioning because of changes in thinking, mood and/or behavior. About five percent of the U.S. adult population has a serious mental disorder that interferes with at least one area of social, occupation or educational functioning. Nearly half have severe and chronic mental disorders due to diseases of the brain. They experience impairment in several areas, such as work or school, family relations, judgment, thinking perception or mood.

  3. How long is the typical treatment for a serious mental health illness?

    Time can vary, but a couple of days to a couple of weeks if you are thinking inpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment and rehabilitation services are can be available for years depending on the need.

  4. What type of programs do you have for people who need more in depth mental health care?

    Medication and individual or group therapy are offered through our outpatient clinic and emergency care is available for those in crisis. Beyond those resources, there are rehabilitation programs like Operation Hope designed to do more than just keep individuals out of the hospital and stable on medication. Operation HOPE is a coalition of three programs that was established to combat the stigma associated with severe mental illness by helping Veterans reclaim their lives and secure meaningful, self-determined roles in the community of choice.

  5. What type of care is offered by Operation HOPE?

    Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, services are tailored specifically for each individual. Here are three specialty programs: 

Hosea sits on a park benchHosea, a Marine Corps. Veteran, struggled for decades with drugs, his home, family and himself. Operation Hope at Milwaukee VA saved his life. His road to recovery long, but the benefits nearly unimaginable. This is his story, in his words.Learn More.

Evidenced Based Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Education Program — EB-PREP

Program description

EB-PREP is a program specifically designed to improve the quality of life and functional level of Veterans experiencing serious mental illness within the psychotic spectrum. It embraces the recovery perspective, with participants being vitally important in establishing goals and deciding on the areas of change that are meaningful in improving quality of life.  In EB-PREP, an emphasis is placed on self-determination and empowerment.

Program services Social Skills Training is an evidenced based practice designed to help people effectively communicate feelings, thoughts and needs to others.  Social and independent living skills are taught in an enjoyable and supportive format through small groups using multiple learning modalities, such as workbook exercises, role playing activities, and structured problem-solving.  While the primary mode of treatment is group-based, individual and family therapy is available to participants as requested.

Program eligibility

Diagnoses within disorders of Schizophrenic or Psychotic Spectrum – including Bipolar and Major Depressive Disorders.

Anticipated length of treatment

Each group typically lasts about 3 to 4 months and Veterans are invited to join the variety of groups offered. As overlearning of skills is a central component to the Social Skills Training model, Veterans are invited to participate in groups more than once per their choice.  Graduation from EB-PREP is a mutual decision between Veteran and their treatment team. 

Mental Health Intensive Case Management — MHICM 

Program Description

This community-based program is designed to help people who experience frequent mental health crises to be able to better manage the challenges of the illness. Case managers provide specialized assistance to help Veterans improve independence in various aspects of life. 


Treatment planning and interventions involve a mutual partnership with both Veteran and treatment team focusing on strengthening community integration and independence in various aspects of life. Services include: case management, psychiatric nursing, social work, counseling, education, skills training, support and socialization groups, individual and family therapy. 

Program eligibility

  • Within the Schizophrenic spectrum
  • Severe Bipolar or Major Depressive Disorders
  • Severe PTSD
  • History of 30 days or 3 stays in acute inpatient psychiatric hospitals within the past 12 months. 

Anticipated length of treatment

This is a voluntary program with length of involvement based on the unique needs of the individual. A Veteran may discharge to standard treatment, lower intensity of care or other services when coordinated with the treatment team. Recovery goals can be reviewed at any time, but no less than yearly by updating the treatment plan to encompass current needs. Graduation from MHICM is a mutual decision between the Veteran and treatment team members. 

Veterans Recovery Resource Center — VRRC 

Program description

The mission of the Veterans Recovery Resource Center (VRRC) is to “provide Veterans with a transitional educational center that will inspire and assist them to reclaim their lives, instill hope, validate strengths, teach life skills and facilitate community integration in meaningful self-determined roles. The VRRC provides Veterans with serious mental illnesses an avenue to define and pursue a personal mission and vision for their future based on their identified strengths and self-chosen values, interests, personal roles, and goals.“ (VHA 1163.03)


This program provides Veteran-centered recovery planning, peers specialist services, educational groups, brief therapy individual and group, wellness classes and a variety of support resources with the primary goal of developing personally meaningful roles, success and satisfaction out in the community. A myriad of activities are offered to support meaningful choice and personal goals. Family support and education are also encouraged. 

Program eligibility

  • Diagnoses within the Schizophrenic Spectrum
  • Severe Bipolar or Major Depressive Disorders
  • Severe PTSD 

Anticipated length of treatment

  • Phase I: Discovery Orientation (6 months)
  • Phase II: Skill Building (up to 18 months)
  • Phase III: Bridge to the Community (up to 12 months) – participation on campus decreases over time as Veterans develop meaningful roles in the community.
  • Phase IV: After Graduation Support (up to 12 months)

If Veterans experience set-backs and need help thereafter, they can contact the VRRC for guidance, referrals or to explore re-entering the program. 

Enrolling in Operation HOPE programs 

Operation HOPE Service Access

  • Operation HOPE referrals are made through any VA provider.
  • If self-referred, call our clinic 414-384-2000, ext. 41251 and our team will work with you and your primary provider for a formal referral.

Operation HOPE Clinic location

The clinic is located on the third floor of Building 43 on the Milwaukee VA Campus separate from the main hospital. However, programming occurs in the community fostering the momentum to Veterans in achieving success and satisfaction.