Implementing a Peer Support Program for Veterans: Seeking New Models for the Provision of Community-Based Outpatient Services for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Use Disorders
The Peer Support Program is an innovative service that aims to improve mental health care for veterans living in rural and other regions of Northern California vulnerable to becoming understaffed with mental health professionals. The program is a collaboration between the Stanford University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the US Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. It is currently offered at three VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics: Sonora, Modesto, and Stockton, CA. The primary target population is veterans returning from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the program serves veterans from all eras who struggle with issues related to posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. As a new model to provide community-based outpatient services where capacity of the system and providers is, at times, challenged to meet the need, two certified peer specialists run the program’s clinical services. They are paraprofessional veterans who have experienced similar mental health disorders and successfully progressed in their recovery from those disorders. Their position requires specific training, certification, and ongoing supervision by licensed mental health professionals. Program leadership and direction comes from the Menlo Park Division campus of the VA health care system, which is located more than 100 miles from where the clinical services are provided. The program has been in the planning stages since November 2012 and operational since February 2012.
KeywordsPosttraumatic stress disorder Veterans Peer support Rural Operation Enduring Freedom Operation Iraqi Freedom Operation New Dawn Substance use disorder Peer specialist Community Outreach
The Peer Support Program is funded by a donation from the Michael Alan Rosen Foundation. The authors would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the Peer Support Program clinical team: Certified Peer Specialists Guy Holmes, Erik Ontiveros, and William Boddie, LCSW.
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