Today@Sam Article

LEMIT Hosts Training On Trauma-Affected Veterans

June 29, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles


With 1.6 million veterans living in Texas—the second highest population in the country—the state is leading the way in offering training for criminal justice professionals to engage better with those suffering from military trauma and to connect them to services in the community.

The Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas will host a free course facilitated by the local Military Veterans Peer Network representative on trauma-affected veterans for law enforcement officers, dispatchers and jailers.

This three-day course, which will be held from Aug. 14-16 at Sam Houston State University’s campus in The Woodlands, aims to provide criminal justice professionals with a basic understanding about U.S. military culture; traumas, triggers, and stressors; and de-escalation techniques they may use when encountering veterans in crisis.

“This training will bring awareness to the issue of those affected by military trauma and the role law enforcement officers have in potentially aiding them,” said Ashley Taylor, veteran services liaison at Tri-County Behavioral Healthcare and the MPVN peer services coordinator for Montgomery, Walker and Liberty counties. “It will help them to engage with these veterans and provide connections to military services in the community. We want to make sure veterans and law enforcement officers are safe so they can both go homes to their families.”

The network, part of the Texas Veterans Commission’s Veteran Mental Health Program, is the only statewide peer support program in the country to use military veterans to identify and investigate community resources and to act and advocate through training and volunteerism on the veterans’ behalf.

In addition to training criminal justice professionals, the program assists with access to mental health programs and various other societal needs. Veterans in Texas represent 18 percent of the population, compared with an average of seven percent nationwide.

“Texas is very veteran friendly, and it shows through our legislative efforts,” Taylor said. “Our state management is currently working with other states to duplicate the program. Texas truly is leading the way and other states are taking notice.”

In an effort to address mental health issues in the criminal justice system, this training was mandated by Texas House 1338 in 2015 to provide training to peace officers and first responders on those affected by trauma, especially veterans. The three-day program will include lectures, videos and role-playing exercises to prepare officers for encounters with veterans in crisis. Participants in the program can earn 24 credits from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

“LEMIT is honored to partner with the Military Veterans Peer Network to deliver this important program to law enforcement officers,” said James Senegal, director of professional development at LEMIT. “Our veterans have served this country with honor, and we owe them a debt of gratitude, praise and thanks for their services in fighting for our freedom.”

The program provides information about the military culture and the traumas that may affect veterans, which include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and moral injury. It will identify the criteria to classify as a veteran and the resources that can be used to get help. It also will discuss military families and the roles they play in the veteran’s well-being. Finally, it will explore the similarities and differences between military and law enforcement and de-escalation techniques that can help diffuse crisis situations.

A law enforcement instructor also will examine trauma-affected veterans from field experience, including how to recognize veterans and the symptoms they exhibit. “For example, an officer may encounter a person with slurred speech, an unsteady gait and anger and may assume he or she is drunk,” Senegal said. “In fact, these same symptoms may be exhibited by a veteran with traumatic brain injury.”

The training also will work through every step of the criminal justice process, from dispatch, encounter with patrol, arrest, jail and probation, to demonstrate how each area can be more effective in addressing the needs of trauma-affected veterans and law enforcement personnel. The program also discusses suicide and depression, which also is prevalent among law enforcement officers, and how to access mental health care for veterans and officers alike.

Finally, the program offers case studies, where officers can discuss interventions that could be used, as well as role-playing exercises, where teams can recognize and react to real-life situations to learn to react more effectively, to use de-escalation techniques such as active listening and empathy, and to access resources to assist veterans.

For more information or to register for the course, visit the site.

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