The Hoplite Resilience Center Founded by Brendan McNichol, Executive MPA '18

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Aaron R. Kelley
March 2, 2018

Brendan McNichol, Founder of the Hoplite Resilience CenterEach year, second year Fels MPA students complete their capstone requirements in order to graduate. This project, guided to completion through an advisor and course, presents an opportunity for graduate students to apply their multi-disciplinary lessons from the MPA program to specific public administration challenges or issues. The Hoplite Resilience Center, a new nonprofit startup founded by Fels Executive MPA student Brendan McNichol, is the product of a successful capstone project. Recently, Fels Communications Fellow Aaron Kelley spoke with Brendan to learn more about his capstone work.

“Today, those who serve face profound and difficult challenges. In recent years, mental health needs have become an ever-increasing concern for our veterans, military personnel, first responders, first care receivers, and their families. Hoplite is driven to make a positive impact in the lives of these individuals by addressing this concern.”

These are the words of Brendan McNichol (pictured above): Fels executive MPA student, U.S. Army Reserve Major, and founder of the Hoplite Resilience Center. Hoplite is a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that grew out of Brendan’s Fels Capstone project and looks to empower individuals who have served or continue to serve, as well as their families, by improving their resilience and overall well-being.

Brendan and his team of professionals hope to accomplish the goal of “Building Resistance, Enhancing Resilience, and Speeding Recovery” by offering a continuum of care to those who may benefit from behavioral and mental health services. This continuum of care system, modeled after the Johns Hopkins construct of human resilience, will provide pre-acute, acute, and post-acute care through several advanced resilience-based programs. Hoplite’s current programs employ the two interacting components of resilience as defined in Psychological Body Armor™ (PBA): 1. preventive resistance (immunity), and 2. reactive resilience (the ability to rebound from adversity).

Currently, two pre-acute care programs exist that focus on preparing military personnel, veterans, first responders, first care receivers, and their families’ to endure mission hardships, prolonged stresses, and unforeseen critical incidents. The first of these educational programs, “Psychological Body Armor™ (PBA), focuses on "building a personal culture of resilience through training small groups of individuals." This course is available in the form of an 8-hour workshop. The second, "Resilient Leadership," focuses on "building an organizational culture of resilience through training first-line supervisors and leadership." This course is available in the form of one 16-hour course that is broken down into two 8-hour days. Both of these courses occur as in-person "discrete training events" that can be held at an organization's facility anywhere in the United States. Soon Hoplite will begin to offer a broader curriculum that will include educational programs accessible in both online and app format.

Over the course of the past year and a half, Brendan has planned and developed his capstone project with the assistance of Fels faculty and their networks. Brendan collaborated closely with Dr. George S. Everly Jr., Ph.D., ABPP from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who helped to ensure that the new organization’s efforts were based around current, evidence-based practices. This relationship continues, with Dr. Everly currently serving as Hoplite’s Senior Advisor to help with maintain current curricula, develop new educational offerings, and share his expertise as the organization grows and develops.

With the help of his professors and the skills learned in MPA courses, Brendan has been successful in getting his nonprofit’s educational programs up and running. However, his sights are set higher: Brendan is now pursuing funding that would allow the Resilience Center to establish a platform for the provision of clinical services, which would augment Hoplite's resilience curricula and link military personnel, veterans, first responders, and first care receivers in need with social workers, psychiatrists, or psychologists. Such clinical services would be available through one-on-one sessions or small peer groups, both in-person and online.

Progress at Hoplite continues on many fronts as Brendan’s team works to develop partnerships with client organizations and expand the scope of their services. Recently, Brendan gave a presentation at the Atlantic County Police Training Center about specialty resilience workshops they could provide to all officers in the state of New Jersey. Additionally, Brendan has been in contact with Virtua, a nonprofit healthcare system in southern New Jersey, to discuss Hoplite’s potential curricula accreditation as a Continuing Medical Education unit (CME) for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who could experience burnout or trauma. Finally, Brendan is finalizing plans to establish a rural residential crisis retreat center intended to speed recovery, create a tranquil setting for training, and provide crisis intervention services.

“The best way for people to get involved with our mission right now is to refer people and organizations to Hoplite,” said Brendan, “however, it is also important to keep in mind that none of what we intend to do will be possible without the ongoing support of passionate volunteers, friends, participating groups, and financial supporters.” As an aggressive nonprofit startup that successfully emerged from a zero-budget capstone project at Fels, the Hoplite team now seeks both financial contributions and new potential clients to ensure that they can serve those in need of the support they can provide for many years to come.

As a final note, Brendan reiterated how integral his experience at Fels was to the creation of his organization: “While my life experiences have shown me the need for an organization like Hoplite, I never thought that I would be able to actually help create one. A major problem has existed for a long time, and my time at Fels gave me the tools as well as the time and attention--addressed through the MPA program’s Capstone requirement and course--needed to start solving this problem. I am very fortunate to have had the experience of being able to use my school as a sort of ‘incubator’ for the Resilience Center,” Brendan said, “Additionally, drawing from the experience of my instructors and peers within the Fels network really helped me in fully developing this innovative organization. Without such a great group of people to learn from, absolutely none of this could have been possible.”

To learn more about the Hoplite Resilience Center, please visit https://www.hopliteresilience.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/HopliteResilience/, or contact Brendan McNichol at info@hopliteresilience.org.

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