Pilot Data of a Brief Veteran Peer Intervention and Its Relationship to Mental Health Treatment Engagement
Underutilization of mental health care is a significant problem among veterans. Offering peer support may improve mental health care engagement. This observational pilot study was conducted using an institutional review board-approved data repository to preliminarily evaluate the association and potential impact of a clinic-based veteran peer outreach strategy on treatment engagement and dropout. Veteran peer outreach coordinators (VPOCs) provided systematic contact (a) within 1 week after clinical evaluation and (b) 1 month after the patient’s first treatment session to patients entering treatment at a specialty mental health clinic that provides military-informed mental health care to post-9/11 veterans and service members. Individuals were 102 consecutive Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn veteran psychotherapy referrals seen at an outpatient clinic. At 6 months, participants who received both contacts from VPOC had more psychotherapy sessions (M = 10.85, SD = 8.25) compared with those who had received no contact (M = 5.47, SD = 6.41) from VPOCs, t = 2.56, p < .05. The dropout rate was also significantly lower for those who received both peer outreach contacts (17.39%) compared with those who received only 1 VPOC contact (51.11%) or no VPOC contact (43.75%), χ2 = 7.27, p < .05. Veteran peer outreach may be associated with better engagement in mental health treatment and lower dropout.