Law Enforcement responses to people with mental health issues are among the most complex and time-consuming calls for officers. These situations not only threaten the safety of officers/ first responders but the surrounding community as well and have the potential for tragic outcomes. This is more so the case for specialized groups within this population, like our veterans. In most recent years, Post-Traumatic Stress and veteran suicide has become popularized along with the “22 a day” catch phrase. The reality of this is that the number of veteran suicides a year is grossly underestimated and the majority of treatment methods available are ineffective long-term for a myriad of reasons.
WHAT IS VET-CONNECT?
This initiative of the LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation (LTT) is designed to be part of a comprehensive approach to improve veteran mental health outcomes and help communities prioritize resources to have the greatest impact on public safety. Created as a gateway for veterans into trusted community services, Vet-Connect builds a bridge between law enforcement/first responders, veterans, and local resources.
- Reduce veteran suicide (reduce risk factors increase protective factors)
- Reduce repeat crisis calls for veterans
- Strengthen local veteran networks/communities
- Reduce veteran contact with the justice system
Vet-Connect is used in situations where a first responder encounters a veteran in the community not in crisis or a veteran in crisis, has de-escalated the situation, and is able to make recommendations for resources. At this point they would get consent from the veteran to collect their name, cell number, and branch of service to pass on to the Lutz Live To Tell Vet Connect Response Team. The first responder would enter the veteran’s information in the Vet Connect mobile app and leave the veteran with a card about Lutz Buddy Up. The Vet-Connect app is a purpose driven mobile application that fills the gap, it’s community based and non-intrusive to veterans.
The referred veteran will get a call by a Lutz Buddy Up member within 24 hours or less and the comradery they experienced while in service will be revived. The culture the military creates, especially among combat veterans, where service members take care of each other is re-established locally reducing the barriers of trust, shame, and accountability that organizations typically face when attempting to connect with a veteran in order to provide services to improve their quality of life and mental health.
WILL IT WORK?
Vet-Connect will work towards accomplishing its goals by using evidenced based practices, a network of local veterans, and partnerships with community organizations.
GOAL I: Reduce Veteran Suicide (Reduce Risk Factors Increase Protective Factors)- Identified Risk Factors among veterans include Poor Social Support, Loss of Relationship, Social Isolation, Low Self-Esteem/Shame Death/Loss of a Pet, and Loss of Job. Identified Protector Factors include: Family, Sense of Purpose, Friends, Unit Cohesion, Education, and Employment. While there are other risk & protective factors, the ones listed are areas in which Vet-Connect has resources to directly assist in impacting in order to reduce the possibility of suicide attempts.
GOAL II: Reduce repeat crisis calls for veterans – The Department of Veteran Affairs has identified new measures to prevent veteran suicide which include: Leveraging Vet Centers, Mindfulness Coaching, and partnering with community organizations for outreach and positive outcomes. Vet-Connect expands on these practices with year-round services.
Goal III: Strengthen local veteran networks/communities – Peer to Peer support is becoming increasingly more popular among mental health professionals as more research is showing that it is an effective method in creating change in individual behavior. While LTT does not employ any clinicians, partnerships do exist with organizations that have medical staff and can provide services (provided their necessary criteria is met). Safety and security are of high priority to LTT and since we do not collect or retain any medical information and the referred veteran consents to the use of their personal information HIPPA and Privacy laws are not applicable to Vet-Connect.
Goal IV: Reduce veteran contact with the Justice System – According to the Bureau of Justice Office of Justice Programs, research has shown that people with mental health issues that are referred to treatment resources by a law enforcement officer experience fewer subsequent contacts with the criminal justice system than those who were not.
“We’ve seen the success of Lutz Buddy Up in South Florida. Our officers are skilled at de-escalating situations, and now we’ll have the ability to offer veterans rapid follow-up by a group of peers who personally understand the issues affecting members of the military.” ~ Sergeant Darwin Arroyo, Sunrise Police Department
IS THIS A LONG-TERM SOLUTION?
The Vet-Connect initiative is another link to strengthen LTT’s safety net for our military and first responders and build stronger communities. All Vet-Connect referred veterans are not only invited into LTT’s network of local veterans but also to a Lutz Buddy Up Social Club that connects military and first responder for an evening of food, fun, and comradery. It provides a physical place where those who serve country and community form bonds that can carry forward for the rest of their lives. Here, peer support, community building, and overall well-being happen. Lutz Buddy Up operates all year and has 24/7 online private members only group. Benefits of membership include:
- Access to local veteran network & community partner resources
- Participation in FREE recreation, entertainment, and family activities
- Participation in FREE workshops on topics including (Health & Wellness, Family Strengthening, Community Safety, etc…)
- FREE training and certification opportunities
- Exclusive discounts to local businesses
- And much more!
Vet-Connect works instantly and then Lutz Buddy Up is the long-term solution.
Together We Will ~Mama LutzInterested in getting Vet-Connect in your community? Click Here to email inquiries.