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Clayton Police Program Helps Officers Connect With Veterans In Crisis

Clayton Police Chief Blair Myhand helped create specialized crisis training to help first responders connect with veterans.

A chance encounter between an Air Force veteran and a police officer in North Carolina helped launch a program to connect first responders with veterans in crisis.

Chief Blair Myhand and Officer Jonathan Guider of the Clayton Police Department spoke at a panel hosted by the Library of Congress last week on Veterans Crisis Intervention Training. The program teaches first responders with military backgrounds how to leverage that shared experience to de-escalate crisis situations involving veterans.

They developed the training after Officer Guider, who is also a veteran, was able to help talk Air Force veteran Nick Blalock through a time of crisis. Blalock said that compassionate intervention changed his life.

“I feel like personally I've come back better as a man, better as a son, an upstanding member of our community,” said Blalock. “I have my faults, I fight my demons everyday just like everybody else, but because of this and this alone, I have become a better person.”

As a result of this encounter, Chief Blair Myhand was inspired to create specialized training for first responders who have served in the military. Myhand, a retired Army First Sergeant, realized that forging a personal connection with a law enforcement officer who understands the military experience could offer a lifeline to veterans struggling with mental illness, substance abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You have a shared experience, you can talk the same language and we’re able to establish a rapport and get beyond that crisis moment,” he said. “Because once you get one moment past the crisis, your chances for success skyrocket.”

Trainers say the program helps reduce incarceration and directs veterans to community resources. The program has spread to other police departments in North Carolina and is beginning to be implemented in communities across the country.

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