Innovator Article

Help for Disabled Vets
Community Consulting Group Provides Road Map for The Pathway Home

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by Professor Paul Griffin

Nestled among the world-renowned vineyards of the Napa Valley is The Pathway Home, an innovative therapeutic community for U.S. soldiers returning from the frontlines of Afghanistan and Iraq who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Pathway is the brainchild of Director Fred Gusman. Some years ago, he observed that government-funded military hospitals and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs centers often compounded the problems of service men and women, and made matters worse, especially in treating disabilities with no outwardly visible wounds such as PTSD, TBI and depression. Gusman set out to offer an alternative approach. He opened The Pathway Home in 2008 thanks to a one-time $5.6 million grant from the Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund (IADF), a special initiative of the Los Angeles–based California Community Foundation.

Built on holistic principles, Pathway’s personalized treatment includes four months of individual and group therapy combined with yoga, recreation and social activities. More than 200 wounded warriors and 130 families have graduated from the program.

But Pathway faced a critical problem. IADF’s support ran out last July, and since then Pathway has sought public and private funding but without a strategic plan. A connection via polo players in Napa prompted Gusman to approach the MBA-student run Community Consulting Group for help.

Advised by Professor Paul Griffin with the help of Assistant Professor Gina Dokko, lecturer Mark Lowe and independent consultant Shirley Schaufel, a team of five Sacramento Working Professional MBA students with financial, marketing, healthcare and nonprofit expertise tackled the project last summer. Students Meredith Abby, Jason Bone, Klaire Bynum, Chandara Phanachone and Justin Wong presented Pathway with a compelling case statement for prospective donors and a business analysis that establishes key financial and clinical milestones. Gusman was impressed.

“It was right on track for us and our vision for the future,” Gusman said. “We’re a nonprofit that doesn’t have the resources to hire a stellar team to put a business plan together. The students’ work has been instrumental in our fundraising efforts and the state’s request for a resource plan for a non-competitive grant we recently secured. So I’m thankful to the Graduate School of Management and the university.” Gusman said, adding that the UC Davis plan also provides a template to consider expanding Pathway to Southern California.

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