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Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center

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VA & Lorain County Sheriff’s Office Team Up

Filling Lorain County Crisis Bags for Veterans.

Police Lt. Justin Ricker fills Lorain County Crisis bags for Veterans.

By Sarah Phillips
Tuesday, May 29, 2018

CLEVELAND - The Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System Police teamed up recently with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office in a joint effort to help Lorain County Veterans in crisis when police respond.

When the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office responds to a situation that involves a drug overdose they are learning to identify if the subject is a Veteran and connect them with VA and community services. “The main goal of this community initiative is to identify Veterans in need of help,” said VA Police Chief Todd Mitchell. 

The Lorain County Sheriff’s Office sent representatives to the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center to discuss how to identify a Veteran in crisis and what steps can be taken to deescalate emergency situations.

“This new initiative sets the standard that when there’s been an incident of substance abuse and it’s discovered the user is a Veteran, the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office will follow up with that person and their family to connect them with appropriate resources including the VA and the Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services,” said Lorain County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Randy Koubeck.

The Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System has made significant changes, not only in how Veteran patients are medically treated but also in how proactive the VA Police are in educating local law enforcement on unique Veteran mental health issues.

 “Knowing we may encounter Veterans that suffer opiate addiction, the Northeast Ohio VA Police put bags together with resource information to give us. We can then provide these bags to other Lorain County Law Enforcement Agencies that have similar teams that respond to survivors of opiate overdoses,” Koubeck said.

The bags include gun locks, prescription return packages, information on homeless shelters, the Veteran suicide hotline, medical and mental health referral information, and other resources.

“A lot of Veterans have invisible wounds. They face increased risk of crisis, including suicide and substance abuse related to posttraumatic stress or brain injuries,” said Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System Police Chief Todd Mitchell. “This law enforcement alliance strives to continue the trend of lowering instances of opioid abuse and addiction among Veterans and getting them connected with the right resources.”

Lt. Koubeck said that he knows the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office may not find out about every opiate overdose survivor, and that one visit is not a guarantee the survivor will get help, but these efforts are “another way of showing, we as law enforcement officers are here to help in the battle of the opiate addiction and hopefully save a life. The first thing we do when we follow up with a Veteran is thank them for their service,” Koubeck said.

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