Cincinnati VA Medical Center
Peer Support Day, celebrating Veterans who continue to serve
October 15, 2018
Lisa Hollenbeck, Public Affairs Specialist,
(513) 861-3100 ext. 5090 or Lisa.Hollenbeck2@va.gov
CELEBRATING VETERANS WHO CONTINUE TO SERVE
Global Peer Support Celebration Day (GPSCD) celebrates peer supporters across the globe who are in recovery and inspire hope and support to those still struggling with the effects of mental health, addiction and or trauma-related challenges.
October 15, 2018, Cincinnati, OH- On October 18, Cincinnati VA Medical Center celebrates Veteran Peer Specialists who give back by bridging the gap for their fellow Veterans who are struggling. Peer Specialists are Veterans with a history of mental illness, addiction, or post-traumatic stress disorder who have received treatment and are successful in their own recovery efforts. They serve on interdisciplinary treatment teams in mental health and primary care. By sharing their own story, they offer hope and opportunity for other Veterans who are struggling to find their way. This concept is quiet familiar to Veterans whose military experience taught them to leave no man behind. It’s one of the basic pillars of what the Army calls the Warrior Ethos, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
It’s apparent in many military slogans across the armed services:
- Marine Corps: "Semper Fidelis" (Always Faithful)
- Army: "This We'll Defend"
- National Guard of the United States: "Always Ready, Always There"
- Navy: "Semper Fortis" (Always strong or always courageous)
- Air Force: "Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win"
Peer Specialists support Veterans who may be apprehensive about treatment or uncertain about how helpful it might be. They can reduce the stigma associated with mental health and addiction, while offering hope for recovery.
In the past four years, the Cincinnati VA has expanded the roleof a Peer Support Specialist to serve Veterans in Primary Care and Whole Health. The VA National Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation has provided guidance and special funding to the Cincinnati VA to expand the role of Peers Support Specialists. Peer Health Coaches engage Veterans in developing a personalized health plan based on what matters most in the life of each individual Veteran. Peers lead self-management programs that help Veterans find what works for them to improve health. This approach is empowering to Veterans as they will remember the strength and determination they once used as a team in the military to adapt and overcome.
In June of 2018, Congress passed the VA Mission Act to improve VA and community care for Veterans. Section 508 of the Mission Act calls for an expansion of “peer specialists in patient aligned care team settings within medical centers...”
Likewise, President Trump signed Executive Order 13822 in January 2018 to support transitioning service members as they get established in civilian life. This transition can be a very stressful time that leads to an increased risk for distress, hopelessness, helplessness and suicide.
Cincinnati VA Medical Center Peer Support Specialists offer Intro to Whole Health sessions twice per month to help transitioning service members with a Whole Health plan. Veterans may consider their aspirations for job, housing, education, Veteran networking, a new physical training (PT) plan and spiritual community. Connections to Veteran-specific community resources like Tristate Veterans Community Alliance, Easter Seals, Team Red, White, and Blue and many others are made.
In addition, the Cincinnati VAMC is authorized to support any mental health needs identified. Intro to Whole Health sessions are held locally on the 2nd Thursday of the month from 9 am to 11 am and the 4th Friday of the month from 1 pm to 3 pm at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. All Veterans and their family members are invited to attend.
Overall, research studies have found that peer support:
- Improves quality of life
- Improves engagement and satisfaction with services and supports
- Improves self-efficacy
- Improves self-reported mental and physical health status, self-care skills, and use of medications
- Improves whole health, including chronic conditions like diabetes
- Decreases the number of emergency room visits, number of hospitalizations, and the number of inpatient hospital days
- Reduces the overall cost of mental health and addiction services
- Reduces mental health symptoms
- Increases knowledge of mental illness, addiction, trauma-related challenges, and chronic illness and diseases
- In general, peer supporters who provide peer support to others report less depression, heightened self-esteem, self-efficacy, and improved quality of lifeAt the Cincinnati VA, we have found that healing happens when worked on in a community. Today we celebrate the men and women Veteran Peer Specialists who are a critical part of that healing community.
Visit the Cincinnati VAMC's Whole Health webpages to learn more about programs and services. For more information or questions please contact, Shari Altum, Ph.D. by phone at 513.861.3100 ext. 5343 or email at Sharyl.firstname.lastname@example.org.