- Project aims to open 25 clinics offering free treatment
- Cohen also funding biomarker research on post-traumatic stress
Billionaire hedge-fund investor Steven A. Cohen is committing $275 million to form a national network of free mental health clinics for military veterans and their families.
The pledge is his biggest yet under a philanthropic push that grew after his son, Robert, was deployed as a U.S. Marine to Afghanistan in 2010. Cohen is seeking to open 25 clinics by 2020 serving a total of more than 25,000 patients a year, said Anthony Hassan, the retired Air Force officer who runs the initiative as executive director of the Cohen Veterans Network.
“Half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say they know a fellow veteran who attempted or committed suicide. Half!” Cohen said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday night at a fundraiser for the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation. “After 9/11, our veterans rushed to protect us. Now it is our turn to protect them.”
Cohen, who runs Point72 Asset Management and has an $11.1 billion fortune according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, got involved in veterans’ mental health while serving on the Robin Hood Foundation’s board. A clinic at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York that Cohen helped open with Robin Hood serves as the model for the others.
A San Antonio facility is opening in partnership with Family Endeavors. A Dallas clinic affiliated with Metrocare Services will be added in June. Los Angeles and Philadelphia locations will be running by September, based at the University of Southern California and University of Pennsylvania, respectively. Ninety-six percent of the Cohen Veterans Network budget will go to the clinics, mostly for care, with 16 percent for electronic record implementation, data analytics and training.
Medal of Honor recipient Kyle White, who served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, is among veterans advising on the project. The fixed-income trader at Bank of America Corp.’s. Merrill Lynch said he wants to lift stigmas associated with seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and family problems.
“I admitted I needed help -- and here I am today, and everything is OK,” White said. “Maybe I can use my example to encourage a veteran or a family member that it’s going to be OK. If I can do it, they can do it.”
Cohen also backs Cohen Veterans Bioscience to accelerate development of biomarker tests and drug-based therapies for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. The organization has at least $30 million to spend on research in the next five years. Patients at the Cohen Veterans Network clinics will be able to participate in studies, creating a “tight circuit, a learning system,” according to the nonprofit’s chief, Magali Haas.
Cohen long captivated Wall Street with his high returns while building SAC Capital Advisors. That firm pleaded guilty in 2013 and paid a record $1.8 billion to resolve U.S. claims over insider trading. While Cohen wasn’t charged with wrongdoing, he agreed to stop managing outside money. He renamed his firm Point72 and hired new executives. In January, the firm was cleared to manage other people’s money as soon as early 2018, though it hasn’t publicly announced plans to raise outside capital.
Hassan works out of Point72’s offices in Stamford, Connecticut, once known for its chilly trading floor and investing staff in fleece. He and Cohen meet about every other week. On Sunday they reviewed a meeting with a potential clinic partner in Colorado and discussed plans for Cohen to visit facilities.
“It’s almost as if I’m one of the portfolio managers -- I’m just not making money, I’m spending money,” said Hassan. “We do have fleeces. It’s part of the culture, and we very much feel part of the firm.”