HUDSON VALLEY REPORTER: PEER-TO-PEER VETERAN PROGRAM COMES TO PUTNAM

 

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    CARMEL, N.Y. — A press conference was held Thursday morning at Spain Cornerstone Park in Carmel to announce that Pfc. Joseph Dwyer Veterans Peer-to-Peer Program would open in Putnam County.

    The program, named for and Army private who committed suicide in 2008, is run for veterans by veterans. It provides “peer-to-peer” counseling between veterans that understand the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

    Statistics from Federal Veterans Administration show that some 20 percent of war veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, 30 percent of Vietnam veterans, and 10 percent of Gulf War veterans experience PTSD.

    “We are vets helping vets,” Strobel said. “We offer the opportunity for veterans to come together in support of each other, to listen and benefit from each other’s experience with service-related issues – everything from getting back into civilian life, to returning to school, or civilian jobs, or family life, and also obtaining VA services,” he said.

    Strobel said that the camaraderie that comes from a shared experience of life in the military no matter the conflict.

    “Whether we served in the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan, or on a ship at sea, we are the few who understand what it is like,” he said.

    Peer to Peer support groups are confidential and most meetings are informal. No fees are charged, no records are kept and there are no reporting requirements by counselors.

    Strobel said his Suffolk County support groups meet weekly but at various locations at varying times on varying days of the week.

    “Anonymity is the key to the program’s success,” said Strobel.

    County Executive MaryEllen Odell is glad to see this type of support system for our military veterans.

    “It is vital that we have a program like this so our veterans can learn to understand just what PTSD and TBI are and can do,” she said. “Working with their peers who have the shared experience of dealing with these disorders will undoubtedly aide our veterans in their recovery.”

    Director of Veteran Services Karl Rhode attended the gathering and is also very much in favor of having the program available in Putnam County.

    “Peer-to-peer counseling for veterans is a vital tool to help them help themselves,” said Rohde. “It is exciting that Putnam will now be able to implement such an important program to help our veterans and their families cope with the invisible wounds of war.”

    Funding for the program was obtained by Sen. Greg Ball, chairman of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee through the NYS Office of Mental Health. Putnam will receive $185,000 and the program will be administered by the county’s Mental Health and Veterans departments. (ARTICLE)