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Dane County 911 adopts policy to help veterans in crisis

MADISON (WKOW) — When you call 911, you’re asked a number of questions about your emergency. But the next time you call 9-1-1 in Dane County, you could be asked a new series of questions.

The new policy, which took effect at the beginning of March, aims to help veterans in crisis.

“We’ve saved lives,” said Paul Logan, the operations director at Dane County 911 Center. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of calls come in to the dispatch center every day. Some of them are high risk calls.

“Suicidal, person with a gun, domestic violence, homicidal, disturbances, barricaded, hostage situations,” Logan said as he described various high risk situations.

However, when veterans are involved, things can be different.

“In so many cases, it’s treated like every other type of call, with no special resources,” he explained.

In some scenarios, veterans could have better training than the officers who respond, according to Logan.

“You got some highly trained veteran who was a special forces, special operator and they’re hell-bent on hurting somebody, themselves or somebody else — if the police can know that, obviously they can adjust their strategies and tactics for how they’re going to approach this situation,” he explained.

Now, those special resources are offered to help veterans in an emergency crisis. Logan and his team partnered with the Veterans Administration Police Department and the Madison VA to create a crisis intervention liaison policy.

“We want to make sure they get the best help possible,” said Logan. “You might have a police officer or even a crisis team that maybe has never dealt with a veteran before.”

It’s why dispatchers must now ask another series of questions when they answer a high risk call.

“Is this person a veteran? Do you know if he or she has served in the military? Do you know what kind of job they did in the military,” Logan said as he rattled off a few examples of the type of questions.

That information is then given to the responding agency. If they need more help, dispatchers can connect them with the VA.

“They have access of course to the psychologist who has access to patient records for veterans,” Logan explained. “The VA Police Department could actually bring a doctor to the scene of one of these incidents.”

The extra help could give police or deputies important information so they know how to properly respond.

Dane County Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew Strong experienced the policy during its 18-month pilot program.

“To get them through that crisis spot, oh yeah, that’s huge,” Strong said. “They’re used to being the defender, they’re used to being the protector. So, they’re not going to identify it when things are starting to go wrong or whatever.”

The Air Force veteran turned deputy has seen it himself and believes the policy could help save lives.

“What an advantage to have that Dane County has over a lot of other spots,” said Strong. “If we can help our veterans here and show that to the state, what a huge thing that would be.”

For Logan, an Army veteran himself and father to a current Marine, the service is personal.

“Some gave a lot, some gave it all. All veterans gave something,” he explained. “And I think we at least owe them. It just seems like a pretty simple thing to do.”

A new, local policy that could help protect the men and women who helped protect us.

“There’s little doubt that the work that we’ve done collectively has already saved lives of veterans,” Logan added.

Dane County dispatchers said through the policy, they’ve been able to get local veterans the help they need in the VA, since some of them aren’t in the VA system when a crisis happens.

Hunter Sáenz

Reporter, WKOW

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