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The new Vets Peer-to-Peer Outreach Center opened its doors Friday in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards
The new Vets Peer-to-Peer Outreach Center opened its doors Friday in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards

New peer-to-peer center reaches out to veterans

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A new center to help veterans through mental health problems opened Friday in Watertown at 247 State Street. The center hopes to be a gateway for vets in the area, where volunteer veterans will help their peers get the services they need.

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Reported by

Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

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The Vets Peer-to-Peer Outreach Center is homey and welcoming, with couches and televisions and a bookshelf full of volumes about war experiences and the military.

Tedd Stiles directs the Mental Health Association, which will run the center. At the grand opening Friday, he said it’s designed to make veterans who may be wary of the stigmas of mental health issues feel welcome.

"They'd come in, they'd get some coffee, maybe sit on the couch, watch some TV, and start talking to one of the advocates, one of the peers – one of the volunteers – about what's going on with their life, maybe what kind of problems they're having, whatever they want to talk about," Stiles said.

The center doesn't offer profesional counseling on site; rather, it's set up as a gateway to help link up vets with services that are available elsewhere. Stiles says trained veteran volunteers can accompany veterans to appointments, help with paperwork, and will build a rapport both with the veteran and those offering the services.

"Right out of the gate, we're probably going to see lots of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, but we also can deal with medical issues, homelessness, whatever kind of issues a veteran would walk in the door with," Stiles said.

Sergeant 1st Class David Geig creates a drawing of Private 1st Class Joseph Dwyer for display in the Vets Peer-to-Peer Outreach Center. Photo: Joanna Richards
Sergeant 1st Class David Geig creates a drawing of Private 1st Class Joseph Dwyer for display in the Vets Peer-to-Peer Outreach Center. Photo: Joanna Richards
The center is funded by two grants focusing on peer counseling for veterans. One is named in memory of Private 1st Class Joseph Dwyer, a veteran of the Iraq war from New York state. He was famously photographed holding an injured Iraqi child. He later committed suicide after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. An artist's drawing of that photograph will be displayed at the Outreach Center.

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