Certified Peer Specialist and Air Force Veteran Heather King is reaping the rewards of hard work as she was named both Carl Vinson VA Medical Center and VA Network 7 Peer Specialist of the Year. King was then nominated to compete for VA’s Peer Specialist of the Year on a national level.

It has not always been sunshine, rainbows and positive social media posts for King. Her success since being hired in March 2020 comes from heartfelt experiences she shares with Veterans. She’s already walked a mile in their shoes.

Peer specialist Heather King

For years King struggled with addiction and mental health complications that led to multiple suicide attempts and inpatient treatment at mental health facilities. She received help from several treatment facilities including Dublin VA’s domiciliary.

On her last suicide attempt, King slipped into a coma.

Believed she heard her grandmother while in a coma

According to King, divine intervention took place and while comatose, she spoke with her deceased grandmother who she loved and admired. She was told her time on earth wasn’t finished and she was needed to help others. That was her calling in life.

King rose out of her coma with the mental compass her grandmother provided. She knew which way to go, but it was up to King to create the map to change the direction in her life.

King, influenced by her grandmother’s words, set off on an ambitious expedition to help others overcome the challenges she hurdled for many years. She enrolled in several certified peer specialist program areas of expertise, including mental health/Whole Health, addictive disease, trauma informed care, wellness recovery and motivational interviewing. She attended the courses to become a substance abuse addiction counselor.

Noted for her superior work ethic

King became a part of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center Certified Peer Specialist team.

She immediately made an impact with Veterans while being noticed for her superior work ethic by her peers and superiors alike. This led to a nomination for competition as Carl Vinson VA Certified Peer Support Specialist of the Year – and she won.

Then she was nominated to compete at the VA Network 7 Certified Peer Support Specialist of the Year – and she came away victorious. The network nominated King to VA’s National Certified Peer Support Specialist of the Year board where she was one of 13 nominees.

While she didn’t take home the top prize, King was highly praised by Dr. Patricia J. Sweeney, national director, VA Peer Support Services.

She wrote to King: “Although you were not selected as the 2021 VHA National Peer Specialist of the Year, you should take great pleasure in knowing that your exemplary work has been recognized by colleagues in both your facility and your network, and that you were nominated for this prestigious national award.”

Not only did King’s dedication to excellence get national recognition, but it’s a good bet she believes her grandmother was looking down overjoyed taking full advantage on her new lease on life.

By James W. Huckfeldt is a public affairs specialist at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia

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Published on Nov. 5, 2021

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