Veterans talking veterans back from the brink: A new approach to policing and lives in crisis
The Washington Post
By Rob Kuznia
March 20, 2019
At its core is the belief that veterans are often best equipped to talk brethren back from the brink — and to guide them to services. Since the program’s launch in September, local law enforcement agencies answering such 911 calls have dispatched not only deputies or officers but also two-person teams from the Veterans Affairs hospital in Long Beach.
After a parking-lot consultation with Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, Veterans Affairs social worker Shannon Teague gets ready to respond to a veteran showing signs of paranoia and other mental distress. (Allison Zaucha for The Washington Post)
The duos have responded to more than 125 emergencies. A Vietnam vet whose thoughts had become so bleak he’d hung a noose in his backyard.
LOS ANGELES — The former Army soldier was slumped in the back seat of a sheriff’s department squad car when Shannon Teague and Tyrone “T-bone” Anderson arrived on the scene. A couple of hours earlier, high on meth, he’d been yelling “you will die” from the front porch of a transition house for homeless veterans.
Teague made the introductions. Neither she nor Anderson wore a uniform, except for the patch on their jackets and the ID tags clipped to their shirts.
“I’m a social worker, and this is my partner, T-bone,” she told the man. “We are from the VA. You’re not in trouble.”
Encounters such as this one represent a new approach to dealing with veterans in crisis. Against the backdrop and heartache of their persistently high suicide rates, authorities are touting the Los Angeles County program as a breakthrough in policing that could save lives.
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