Constable Jeremy Burns Military Veterans Wellness Program Coordinator
To improve the well-being of veterans by providing law enforcement agencies with a better understanding of military culture, de-escalation training, and a streamlined referral process to national support services.
The Military Veterans Wellness Program is not a veteran charity or independent veteran organization. It is a Toronto Police Service-led program that provides training to Canadian law enforcement members so they can safely assist military veterans who officers encounter on their daily duties and provide them with the appropriate referral services.
The Toronto Police Service Military Veterans Wellness Program began development in 2019 by veterans for veterans. The program aims to achieve prosperity for all of our Canadian Armed Forces veterans and increased public safety for all communities across Canada. It was developed with a team of industry leaders in the field of wellness, mental health, incident response, de-escalation and veteran support.
Military veterans often experience unique barriers related to their experiences in the military including physical and mental health problems, challenges integrating into civilian life, difficulty asking for and receiving supports. At times these challenges can result in a lack of employment, difficulties with relationships, addictions, homelessness and suicidal ideations.
The Military Veterans Wellness Program provides law enforcement members with an understanding of:
the Canadian Armed Forces
challenges a veteran may face during transition to civilian life
specific de-escalation techniques for a veteran in crisis
social services available to veterans
how to refer a veteran to help
This program will empower law enforcement members to provide a veteran the support services they need to improve their daily struggles and help put a stop to veteran homelessness and suicide.
Law enforcement members will complete the self-guided training program, which will provide them an increased understanding of the military veteran culture and the services available for support.
During the police officers’ daily duties, they may encounter a person who they believe is a veteran. If they also have concerns that the individual is at-risk or vulnerable to crisis, harms, and/or victimization they will inquire: “Have you served in the military?”
If the Veteran answers yes, then the law enforcement member will educate the veteran on the existence and objectives of the Military Veterans Wellness Program. At that time, the law enforcement member will request consent from the veteran to make a referral on their behalf to three national leaders in Veteran wellness: Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), The Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) and the Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS). These partners will attempt to reach out and make contact with the veteran within 72 hours to offer support.
VAC is the department within the Government of Canada that is responsible for supporting the well-being of veterans (including members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and their families. VAC provides them with client-centered services and benefits in recognition of their services to Canada. VAC is also responsible for promoting recognition and remembrance of their achievements and sacrifices in times of war, military conflict and peace.
The Royal Canadian Legion is the largest veteran not-for-profit organization in Canada. The RCL will assist and advocate for anyone who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, wartime allies, Commonwealth or any peace officer who has deployed to a special duty area or international operation including their families.
RCL volunteers and service representatives provide “on the ground” support to veterans, which may include advocacy, first, and last month’s rent, food vouchers, furniture, an apartment kit, a comfort bag and moving expenses.
RCL can provide mentorship and a positive community for veterans and assist them with their transition back to civilian life. They contribute to research and advocacy for the larger veteran issues in Canada.
The OSISS program is a national peer support program for Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, and their families in multiple locations across Canada who provide, mentorship, first-hand lived experience, and practical knowledge of what life is like with an OSI. OSISS is a partnership program between the Department of National Defense and Veterans Affairs Canada. Confidentiality is the cornerstone of OSISS and we are bound by professional ethics in regards to what and who we can share information with. Our services can be a compliment to other mental health and family support services. Because we are peers (someone with a similar experience) we are non-judgemental and can walk alongside you in your journey.
Read the Toronto Police News story
Read the Blueline Magazine story