Over 75 leaders from around the country joined Veterans Recovery Resources on Thursday, August 9, 2018 for its inaugural Veteran Peer Support Symposium.
Dr. Jeremy Fletcher served as host for an engaging day filled with discussion around the current best practices in Veteran Peer Support and how the latest evidence-based practices are used in different settings ranging from organic farms, retreats and coffee shops to therapeutic environments at Veterans Affairs. The common theme? Veterans helping other Veterans is critical, along with an ecosystem of community providers working towards a shared purpose without duplicating effort.
Speakers included Bob Curry, the founder and CEO of Dryhootch America, a large Veteran peer program honored by the White House in 2012 as a Champion of Change and Dr. David L. Albright, the Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health and Director of the Office for Military Families and Veterans at the University of Alabama School of Social Work. Dr. Joe Currier and Nick Fadoir shared an informative and eye-opening presentation on the latest research related to assessing suicide risk in military populations, which sparked an in-depth discussion. A key highlight of the event was a panel discussion including the candid experiences of what works and doesn’t in Veteran Peer Support from a highly experienced group of Veteran Peer Specialists.
Panelists included Scotty Irwin from Growing Veterans, a by-Veteran non-profit in Washington state providing peer support using the farm as the platform for working together and engaging the community in Veteran transition; Fred Nardei, a Certified Forensic Peer Support Specialist and Recovery Specialist in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and who publishes the national Peer Support Perspectives newsletter; Tom Meyer, a former Special Forces medic and ODA Team Sargent, with nearly three decades of experience in intensive care as an RN and South Alabama chapter coordinator at Team River Runner, a national Veterans support group whose focus is healing and reintegration through adaptive paddle sports; and Olga Wuerz, a Certified Peer Support Specialist, facilitator and trainer at Via Hope Texas Mental Health, VA North Texas VA Healthcare System and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).
Josh Goldberg, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Boulder Crest Institute for Posttraumatic Growth, shared his remarks remotely from an airport lounge with a focus on the non-clinical approach to training Veterans to overcome and grow from PTSD and combat-related stress, as evidenced in Boulder Crest’s breakthrough Warrior PATHH and Family PATHH programs.
Perhaps most importantly, the Veteran Peer Support Symposium provided the ideal environment to strengthen bonds and a shared commitment to provide Veterans with the attention, guidance and unconditional support required to fully thrive at home.