Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub is announcing the formation of a new program aimed to provide specialized assistance to military veterans who live in our communities who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Sheriff Ayub is pleased to offer the Sheriff’s VOICE program, which stands for Veterans Outreach In Crisis Events. The Sheriff’s Office has been working on developing the program for several months, working with federal and local partners to develop specialized training for our deputies. The program is designed to pair specially trained deputy sheriffs who are military veterans themselves with military veterans in our communities who are experiencing a mental health crisis and who’ve called the Sheriff’s Office for help. Each of the deputy sheriffs participating in the program is a military veteran and volunteered to be part of the program. Many of our deputy sheriffs volunteered because they have personal experiences with veterans they served alongside who have died by suicide, or they served with veterans who struggle daily with mental health issues because of their service to our country.
“I applaud Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, and the entire department, for the launch of their new Veterans Outreach In Crisis Events program, or VOICE,” said Congressman Mike Garcia. “This program will enable the department to better serve the veteran community in Ventura County. With the recent chaotic withdrawal in Afghanistan, this program is more important than ever. I want our Global War on Terror veterans, as well as veterans of all generations, to know that their service was not in vain and that our community is here to support them. I look forward to seeing the positive impact this program will provide for our community.”
The VOICE deputies will be first responders to a veteran in crisis and will draw upon their personal experiences and specialized training to build rapport and de-escalate crisis situations. The relationship will not stop with the initial contact. Our VOICE deputies will continue to contact the military veteran in the weeks and months following a crisis event to ensure the veteran’s needs are being met, utilizing services of the Department of Veterans Affairs, County of Ventura Veteran Services Office and other non-profit partners.
“Ventura County has a very long and rich military history and is the proud home to more than 40,000 veterans,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “I applaud Ventura County Sheriff’s Office for this initiative, which is taking concrete steps to better respond and intervene in incidents where a veteran is in crisis or struggling with their mental health. No one knows the unique circumstances veterans face better than other veterans, who have sacrificed so much in service to our nation. We owe it to all of our veterans to ensure they receive the proper care and critical services that they need.”
The deputy sheriffs were joined by sheriff’s dispatchers and sheriff’s chaplains during special training developed in conjunction with the Ventura County Law Enforcement Crisis Intervention Team. Four of the training instructors are military veterans from the Ventura County Veteran Services Office, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Gold Coast Veteran’s Foundation. The other instructors include a psychiatrist and licensed clinical social worker, both from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“A person experiencing a mental health crisis needs empathy and patience, and for a veteran in need, another veteran with training and experience is best equipped to provide both,” Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin said. “Law enforcement officers are often the first people to respond to these situations, and I commend the VCSO for implementing a program aimed at de-escalating conflict wherever appropriate and possible.”
The Sheriff’s Office receives as many as 15 calls per month from a veteran who is suffering from a mental health crisis. The military community has seen a sharp uptick in calls and texts to the veteran’s crisis line in the last two months since the military withdrawal in Afghanistan.
Recognizing the significant military population living in areas served by the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Ayub said, “Our military veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for our country to ensure that we are safe. They carry invisible battle scars that can have a significant impact on their lives. Our VOICE program is one way for us to give back to our veterans who might experience a mental health crisis. We are eager to start the program and look forward to the positive impact it will have on the military community.”