Growing and Improving the Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Program for Veterans
June 15, 2022
New York State is home to more than 700,000 military veterans and welcomes an additional 4,000 each year who are transitioning from active duty.
Veterans can face challenges while transitioning from active duty to their new lives at home, and they often do not ask for help until issues have compounded or a crisis has arisen, including suicidal thoughts and behavior, in the worst cases. Peer-to-peer programs are an effective, popular approach for veterans, where they can comfortably open up to a fellow veteran about shared experiences. In New York State, the most widespread of these programs is the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program, which takes a confidential peer-to-peer approach to reduce isolation, increase social connectivity, and connect veterans with community-based resources. In 2022, NYHealth awarded Syracuse University, Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) a grant to expand the Dwyer Program across the State and help it implement best practices to better support veterans.
Under this grant, IVMF will collaborate with the central Dwyer organization, the University of Albany, and peer mentor programs to develop recommendations to help New York counties open up new Dwyer Programs or improve their existing ones. IVMF and its partners will help stakeholders to better understand the elements of the Dwyer Program, varying approaches to implementation, budget implications, and gaps and opportunities for expansion throughout the State. IVMF will bring together veterans service organizations and others currently operating or interested in establishing a Dwyer Program, as well as State officials and peer mentors and mentees, to share best practices for peer mentor programs that meet veterans’ needs; identify unmet needs and ways to strengthen programs; discuss ways to standardize program elements and measures of success; learn how to apply for State Dwyer funding; and discuss mentor and mentee recruitment. IVMF will produce and share a report highlighting key takeaways, common themes, and recommendations on how to replicate and strengthen new and current peer mentor programs.