Vets4Warriors Peer Support Line
The National Guard Bureau announced the initiation of a new and confidential veteran peer support helpline for all Guard and Reserve service members on December 13, 2011. This began in part to recognize the difficulties of returning military into civilian life, the rising number of suicides in that population and a recent New Jersey soldier who took his own life while waiting for services. The death of Sgt. Coleman Bean got the attention and advocacy of the late N.J. Senator Frank Lautenberg and the action of Congressman Rush Holt. Their services help establish the program at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, a center of excellence for 18 years in peer support. This telephone line was based on the principles of peer support: that someone who has shared lived experiences can quickly connect, understand and listen in highly effective ways. The peers also connected callers to resources, advocated for services and routinely called back with caring support. In August of 2014 the program transitioned to the Department of Defense, DSPO (Department of Suicide Prevention Office). Here our major focus was on the active duty service men and women around the world. We have worked closely with the VA’s Crisis Line and not only reached out to service members in crisis but also continued with peer support when accepted. This contract ends August 15, 2015. We have been requested to refer current and new callers to Military One Source in the future.
Since December 2011, the Vets4Warriors program has had over 130,000 contacts with service members and their families. This includes incoming calls and follow up calls with the remaining contacts from live chat and email. The program employs forty veterans (which includes supervisors) and four licensed mental health clinicians. Ninety-five percent of the Vets4Warriors program peers are Veterans.
We offer peer support by phone and social media. Peer support is available based on each caller’s needs. Continuous customer satisfaction survey tools and unidentified data collection help improve the quality of care.
Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care has been a Center of Excellence in peer support since the founding of our nationally recognized program Cop2Cop in 1998. This program also received the title of “Best Practice in Peer Support” from the Department of Defense DCOE (Defense Center of Excellence) in 2011. Today our RUBHC National Call Center administers 10 separate peer support telephone lines to vulnerable populations (e.g. mothers of disabled children, caregivers of elderly with dementia) and employs and supervises 111 staff.
Available when people need us, Vets4Warriors peer helpline offers easy access via our toll free number and “live chat.” Provides information to a variety of continuously updated services, offers follow up calls with 24/7 LIVE Veteran staffing. All calls are answered by a Veteran peer within 20 seconds, utilizing sophisticated technology. This program is part of the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care National Call Center, which is staffed by individuals with over 18 years of peer helpline experience who answer over 600,000 calls a year.
STIGMA FREE ENVIRONMENT
Who better to understand the challenges of military life than someone who has lived it? Veterans provide respect, hope and support to service members and families. We engage them in a personal, non-threatening way, helping to mitigate stigma and concerns about confidentiality. We are here to help, not judge.
Veterans and their families are offered follow-up calls to assure continued support when needed. This capacity to provide follow-up calls, utilizing our proven peer support model, makes us unique from other programs.
Our toll free peer support line 1-855-838-8255 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all service members.