VA and law enforcement collaboration improves Veteran outcomes

Wilmington VA police and social workers created a first-of-its-kind partnership with Delaware law enforcement to study the effects of Veteran-specific police intervention tactics.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, found an increase in overall health care utilization at Wilmington VA after Veteran-police interactions occurred.

“This partnership is known as a Veteran Response Team, and it prepares officers with the skills and resources needed to help Veterans in crisis,” said Paul Woodland, Wilmington VA police chief. “This approach can prevent future law enforcement interaction by diverting Veterans out of the criminal justice system and into the clinical setting. There, we can address the root cause of the issue that led to the incident.”

Policeman writing at desk

First-of-its-kind partnership

Teams improve outcomes for Veterans

According to the National Institute of Corrections, Veteran Response Teams improve outcomes for Veterans and minimize hostile or volatile situations for both law enforcement and Veterans.

The National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, in partnership with Wilmington VA, analyzed data on 241 Veterans in Wilmington, Delaware, who had an interaction with VA police or community police. Of those individuals, 92.5% were already enrolled in VA health care and 4.1% applied for VA health care after police intervention.

The data compared health care utilization six months before and six months after police involvement, and it found a greater than 40% increase in outpatient mental health services and a 59% increase in outpatient substance abuse services.

A network of support

“This is more than just training. It’s purposeful coordination between VA, law enforcement and community partners that creates a network of support to address Veterans’ underlying issues,” said Cecilia Gonzalez, Wilmington VA Veteran Justice Outreach supervisor. “It gives Veterans an opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives and potentially deflect from incarceration.”

Four VA sites have Veteran Response Teams: Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Wilmington VA implemented the practice in 2016 for Delaware and January 2023 for southern New Jersey.

Wilmington VA provides health care services to more than 40,000 Veterans throughout Delaware and southern New Jersey at its medical center and five outpatient clinics.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in My Healthy Veteran, US National Health Agency Sources