Program hits milestone metric as it seeks to equip law enforcement with Veteran-centric crisis response training
RALEIGH, N.C., May 26, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Veterans Service Organization, The Independence Fund, has reached a milestone metric, training more than 2,000 North Carolina law enforcement officers and first responders in Veteran-centric Crisis Response Training as part of its Veterans Justice Initiative (VJI) program, which was launched in partnership with the state of North Carolina in 2021.
VJI addresses the unique and severe mental health needs faced by Veterans, especially post-9/11 combat Veterans. Since its first quarter 2022 launch, VJI has trained 1,883 officers and first responders across all 100 counties in North Carolina. Additionally, The Independence Fund’s VJI team has engaged in 144 cases across 38 towns and cities throughout the state, providing navigation for both Veterans and the state’s legal counterparts.
“The Independence Fund, through the Veterans Justice Initiative program, is assisting law enforcement agencies, first responders, and front-line workers to understand the nuances and true scope of Veterans’ mental health once they return home from service,” says The Independence Fund’s CEO Sarah Verardo. “We know that early intervention and casework is crucial to Veteran mental health. VJI has developed robust, alternative ways to approach Veterans in crisis from initial contact with 911 operators, first responders, and law enforcement.”
Nearly half of North Carolina’s 700,000 Veterans seek medical or mental health treatment according to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, and many experience crisis without knowing how to adequately address their needs.
“Our military presence is huge, leaving the pursuit of making North Carolina the most military-friendly state long overdue. To some, North Carolina is just a brief stop in their journey; to nearly 700,000 veterans, its home,” said, Rep. Charlie Miller, a sponsor of North Carolina’s No Veteran Left Behind law. “As a law enforcement veteran, I am well equipped to identify the dire need in our state to provide local law enforcement with additional training to assist veterans in need. I’m thankful for the Independence Fund for their partnership with the State and Law Enforcement.”
VJI’s approach is holistic, from a Veteran’s initial contact through any necessary legal processes. Importantly, the program establishes a strong aftercare plan through an extensive network of resources and partner organizations to help a Veteran find healing and hope beyond their crisis.
“The Union County Sheriff’s Office is proud to be a part of this amazing team dedicated to honoring and providing aid to our nation’s military Veterans. Through Crisis Intervention Training, the UCSO has been able to learn more about the services that can be offered to Veterans in the midst of a crisis situation and appropriate methods that can be used to de-escalate and resolve situations with referrals for assistance, not a criminal arrest,” says Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey. “VJI provides options for Veterans in crisis that are either already involved in the criminal justice system or at risk to become involved in the future. By utilizing local, state, and federal resources our agency hopes to work closely with The Independence Fund to honor the sacrifices and service of our veterans as we exercise patience and understanding when interacting with a Veteran dealing with a crisis situation.”
Through funding provided by the state of North Carolina’s No Veteran Left Behind program, The Independence Fund plans to continue expansion of VJI with additional, immersive training experiences for law enforcement, EMS, fire departments, and 911 dispatching units.
ABOUT THE INDEPENDENCE FUND:
Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund (501c3) is committed to serving the Warfighter Community by providing innovative programs and services to support the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual independence of our servicemembers, combat Veterans, their caregivers, families, and those allies who served in combat alongside our troops, through innovative mobility and adaptive technologies and therapies for combat veterans; suicide prevention; caregiver and family support; and Veteran advocacy with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, other government agencies, federal and state legislators, and other partners. The Independence Fund believes in fairness and equality for all veterans and families irrespective of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, and will continue to uphold these American values.
Debra Richardson, Chief Communications Officer
SOURCE The Independence Fund