Dryhootch: Veterans using peer support

Training peer counselors to support the health and social service needs of returning veterans and their families

Full Project Name:Dryhootch: Veterans using peer support to make sure their comrades get the care they needPrimary Community Organization:Dryhootch of America Inc.Primary Academic Partner:Jeffrey Whittle, MD, MPH, MedicineAward Amount:$40,000
Award Date
July2009
Project Duration:12 months

Project Description Narrative:


Exposure to traumatic situations and prolonged and unpredictable family separations related to deployment and service cause military veterans to be at increased risk of developing a number of mental health disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, along with difficulty re-establishing family relationships upon return to life at home. In addition, the stigma of mental illnesses causes many veterans — particularly those who want to continue a military career or association — and their families to not recognize these behavioral issues as medical issues, rather than social. Challenges related to the perception of VA care may also contribute to a lack of use. Despite other efforts and programs, there is evidence that veterans do not see out the care that they, or their families, need.

Using emerging evidence that peer support is an important adjunct to professionally provided health care services, project partners aim to explore the use of trained peer counselors to facilitate the use of appropriate and needed medical services and support returning veterans and their families in using the health care and social resources available to them.

Community partners:
Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Documented the extent of unmet need for services among veterans who have and have not accessed Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services, developing a formal report on the survey findings for dissemination to stakeholders

• Mobilized community partners through the Wisconsin Warrior Project, bringing together community mental health service providers with veteran advocates at two Wisconsin Warrior Summits that provided learning about the mental health and other issues facing veterans and their families

• Identified and secured a location outside of the VA medical center to establish the Dryhootch coffee shop, which will include safe, quiet space for veterans to gather and for peer-to-peer counseling to occur

• Identified and trained 21 individuals to serve as peer counselors

• Leveraged $70,000 in funding from other sources

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