Skip to main content

The SERV Program

Home  National News  About Us  Contact Us  Site Map  Peer Support is Coming to  SERV Program Calendar  The SERV NOSHIC Partnersh  Cleveland VA Mental Healt   

Looking at the places we are seeing Peers



Okay the training is over and the peers have been assigned.  By October 20th we will start seeing the veteran peers on the medical wards. We would like to thank Dr. Edgardo Padin-Rivera, Julie Harmon PHD., Kenneth Parbucki, Ann Drysdale Mark Shine and John Merritt for giving their time to make this training exceptional and meaningful.

On August 18, 2014 the first Peer Support Specialist training for medical wards Began. 

Using the Peers on the medical wards is the brainchild of Clinical Nurse Specialist Ann Drysdale. Miss Drysdale stated "After seeing the work of the peers in the outpatient clinics, it became evident that peers could function as well on the inpatient wards".  The pilot program started with one peer in the hospice ward then expanded to the two peers on the 4th and 5th wards and the rest is history.  We believe that this type medical ward training for peers to be the first of it's kind in the VA's medical system.

The training will be conducted by Kenneth Parbucki, Ann Drysdale, John Merritt  and Mark Sheline. According to John Merritt, “This training will consist of; medical terminology, medical wards orientation, patient and peer interactions and a review of VA competencies".   The medical ward training is believed to be the first of it's kind in the VA's medical system.

Peers are showing up in the;

Primary care clinics.

Medical wards.

Cares Towers is looking into the program along with  hospice ward.






The Department of Veterans Affairs Louis Stokes Medical Center is employing veterans as Peer Support Specialist for almost all VA medical facilities.  The current team of veteran peer support specilist are working in all areas.  Veterans are working with other veterans in treatment for addiction and alcohol abuse.  They are working in the courts helping veterans move through the justice system with minimum impact on their lives.  They are working to on the medical wards with vets that are facing surgery or vets in recovery and rehabilitation They are working with vet in the pain management clinics also.

What is a Peer Support Specialist? 


Peer support in mental health has recently gained significant attention. There is increasing talk about funding and credentialing, standards and outcomes.  But what is peer support and how is it different than services, even services delivered by people who identify themselves as peers?


Peer support for people with similar life experiences (e.g., people who’ve lost children, people with alcohol and substance abuse problems, etc.) has proven to be tremendously

important towards helping many move through difficult situations (Reissman, 1989;

Roberts & Rappaport, 1989). In general, peer support has been defined by the fact that

people who have like experiences can better relate and can consequently offer more

authentic empathy and validation. It is also not uncommon for people with similar lived

experiences to offer each other practical advice and suggestions for strategies that

professionals may not offer or even know about. Maintaining its non-professional

vantage point is crucial in helping people rebuild their sense of community when they’ve

had a disconnecting kind of experience.

Peer support in mental health however has a more political frame of reference. Whereas

some support groups form around the shared experience of illness, peer support grew out

of a civil/human rights movement in which people affiliated around the experience of

negative mental health treatment. (e.g. coercion, over-medication, rights violations, as

well as an over-medicalized version of their "story"). In other words, the shared

experience has had more to do with responses to treatment than the shared experience of

mental illness. The Independent Living Movement has been the quintessential guide to

this way of thinking.

The Independent Living Movement grew out of a reaction to social, physical, and

treatment barriers for people primarily with physical disabilities. It arose at a time when

other movements were gaining headway in establishing rights for oppressed groups of all

kinds. Through a strategic advocacy initiative, the Independent Living Movement

focused on three general areas: The first, to enforce the civil and benefit rights for people

with disabilities; second, to develop a way of thinking created by people with disabilities;

and third, to create alternative services and advocacy centers (Deegan, 1992, DeJong,


Dejong (1979) writes:

According to the IL paradigm, the problem does not reside in the individual but

often in the solution offered by the rehabilitation paradigm- the dependencyinducing

features of the …professional-client relationship…The locus of the

problem is not the individual but the environment that includes not only

rehabilitation process but also the physical environment and the social control

mechanism in society-at large (pg 443).

In identifying the critical elements of peer support Solomon (2004) reminds us that

"Consumer provided services need to remain true to themselves and not take on the

characteristics of traditional mental health services (p.8). Campbell (2004) also notes that

consumer operated programs should present an alternative worldview (pg.32). So what

does it mean to stay true to itself, to provide a different worldview? Identifying skills and

ingredients that support this difference will help in determining what constitutes "good

outcomes" for peer programs. It will help us to become more self evaluative and

therefore continuously build on emerging knowledge, and it will help us simply to

challenge ‘how we’ve come to know what we know."



The men and women and the Cleveland Peer Support group got together on February 2nd to celebrate the success of the program, welcome the current Peers and acknowledge the pioneers of the Cleveland VA Peer Support Group.

On hand was Mrs. Susan Fuehrer the Medical Center Director, Dr. Edgardo Padin-Rivera, PHD, Dr. Julie Harmon, PHD, and Ken Parbucki the MC of the program.  Several key members of the team were unable to make the event, so we will acknowledge their outstanding work on this website.  Ms. Ann Drysdale, was the driving force for the peer support on the medical wards.

All of the Peers were introduced to the staff, along with a brief description of the jobs they are doing within the Medical Center. 

We would like to thank all of the peers and staff for the great work at the Cleveland VA Medical Center Wade Park and Parma.