they feel at home, special.” rogram participants get involved initially But the involvement doesn’t stop there, Soto-Quinones through a call to the helpline at 866-838stresses. 7654, which goes to one of the individuals “What makes this program unique is that we follow up, not at the New Jersey Vet2Vet—or Vets4Warriors, if the NJ just as a representative of the clinic but as a peer,” she says. “We Vet2Vet operators are occupied; both helplines are administalk to each patient about a week after the appointment to find tered by UBHC. If the individual needs health care services in the New Brunswick area, the helpline staffers stay on the line while they transfer the individual to Wilson, who provides more details about the program. If the individual is seeking medical and behavioral help, Wilson works to coordinate the times of both appointments at Monument Square—primary care needs with family medicine physicians and behavioral health needs with a UBHC specialist—so that it’s most convenient for the patient, he says. During the patient’s first visit, he or she receives a packet with additional information about the program, giveaways with veteran-related helpline numbers, and brochures about veteran-specific programs and resources in the area, Wilson says, noting that each patient in the program also is paired with a peer veteran who helps the patient through the process and handles the exterior support services essential to that person’s needs. One of those peers is Miriam Soto-Quinones, who served in the U.S. Army for 26 years before retiring in 2001. She has worked as a peer veteran for Vets4Warriors for the past four years and is also iriam Soto-Quinones, who served in the U.S. pleased to be able to provide peerArmy for 26 years before to-peer support in person in her retiring in 2001, is pleased role with VTCI. to be able to provide As the “first and last person peer-to-peer support in out how it went, if they have any questions, if there’s they see,” the peer greets VTCI person in her role with any other issue they need to discuss or take care of. A patients at the front desk, helps the Veterans Total Care lot are in need of housing, of jobs. We’ve helped quite a them with paperwork—a process Initiative. % few with those issues.” Wilson says can take about a half hour—and assists with their transition to clinical services, Soto-Quinones explains. When the appointment is over, the peer makes sure the veteran has everything needed before leaving the office. “There’s a bigger comfort level for patients,” she says. “When I introduce myself and say, ‘I’m here to help you,’ right away it reduces their anxiety, and you can see the sense of relief. Having a fellow veteran here to speak with them and assist, the patient can relate. That’s the real connection— 24 Robert Wood Johnson I MEDICINE t’s that type of personal touch that several program patients say make a significant difference in the care, notes Douglas J. Boyle, JD, PhD, program director and clinical psychologist at UBHC, who is the evaluator for the VTCI program. Dr. Boyle moderated focus group discussions with the patients, designed to assess their overall experience with the program; their level of satis-