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Peer support programs for veterans, active duty soldiers receive $185,000

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — River Community Wellness Program will receive state funding that will help fund therapists to facilitate peer support meetings for active-duty soldiers who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ben Moore III said $92,500 secured by state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, helps to sustain program functions. The program has graduated 153 soldiers since its inception early last year.

“That peer-to-peer (idea) really is the same type of exercise the people in Watertown use and we use,” he said. “It’s been effective in getting soldiers to talk about their issues.”

Mrs. Ritchie secured a total of $185,000 for the peer effort to help men and women suffering from PTSD and other combat-related illness. The remaining $92,500 goes to the Vets Peer to Peer Outreach Center, 247 State St., Watertown. The center runs the Pfc. Joseph Dwyer Peer-Support Program for Veterans.

Last year, the two organizations received the same allotment, which also was secured by Mrs. Ritchie.

In a statement, Mrs. Ritchie said the funding will “ensure our brave troops are given both a shoulder to lean on and peers to talk with who have shared in similar experiences.”

“Many troops who have served in combat zones return with wounds we cannot see and as a result, struggle with PTSD as they try to reacclimate themselves with life at home,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Moore said Fort Drum officials have inquired with the River Community Wellness Program about increasing the caseload of program participants. To do that, the program needs more staff, and River Hospital is hiring for that.

“We’re getting close,” he said. “The need is there.”

For more information, call the River Community Wellness Program at 482-2511, or the Vets Peer to Peer Outreach Center at 681-6772.

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