Increasing Access to Peer Mentors for Veterans Treatment CourtsNYSHealth awarded a grant to PsychArmor Institute to develop an online version of an in-person Veterans Treatment Court peer mentor training program to expand access for veterans in need.
August 2018 – October 2019
To address the unique needs of justice-involved veterans, Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) were developed as an alternative to incarceration for veterans who have been charged with low-level crimes and have mental health or substance use issues.
They offer justice-involved veterans a second chance by giving them the treatment they need while allowing them to stay in their own communities and out of prison. Modeled after drug and mental health courts, VTCs are a proven way to reduce recidivism.
A critical component of VTCs is peer mentors—volunteers who are veterans themselves—who provide around-the-clock support, advice, and camaraderie for veterans. Peer mentors have been found to produce positive clinical outcomes for VTC participants. With the growth of VTCs nationally, there is a pressing need to identify and train new peer mentors to meet the increasing demand.
NYSHealth awarded a grant to PsychArmor Institute to develop an online version of an in-person VTC peer mentor training program to expand access for veterans in need.
Outcomes and Lessons Learned
- Created a 10-part online training module as a cost-effective means to meet an increased demand for peer mentors. The training module was adapted from Justice For Vets’ in-person, best-in-class peer mentor training program.
- Consulted with experts to review modules, check for authenticity, and ensure fidelity to Justice For Vets’ training model.
- Conducted outreach to its networks of VTCs, district attorneys, public defenders, judges, current peer mentors, and nonprofit partners to increase awareness and use of the online training course.
- Provided technical support for the training program.
- Trained 606 peer mentors nationally within 3 months, reflecting a 15% increase in qualified peer mentors for the entire national VTC system, which translates to 1,755 justice-involved veterans being assisted per year.
Building on the success of this grant, the Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice awarded funding to PsychArmor for a follow-up project to create 8 additional modules focused on mental health to accompany the original 10 online training modules.
PsychArmor created an intentionally short registration process to minimize barriers for peer mentors to access and complete their online trainings; however, it did not include tracking the location of newly trained mentors. Because of this, PsychArmor was not able to specifically measure the project’s impact on New York State’s peer mentors. In the future, NYSHealth will work with grantees to be more mindful of ways to quantify and track success within the State, especially when collaborating on a project that is national in scope.
Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: PsychArmor received $100,000 from the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust and $50,000 from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Additionally, the Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice awarded PsychArmor a grant of $167,500 for a follow-up project to create additional training modules focused on mental health.