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JAHVH Deflection Team and Tampa First Responders Partner to Help Veterans

Capt. Simpson, VA Police Liaison for the Deflection Team, answers a question as Capt. McGraw from Polk County Sheriff’s Office listens.
Capt. Simpson, who serves as the VA Police Liaison for the Deflection Team, answers a question as Capt. McGraw from Polk County Sheriff’s Office listens.

In a groundbreaking collaboration, James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital join forces with Tampa-based first responders to address the critical mental health care needs of Veterans in the community.

The initiative, known as the Tampa Deflection Team, marks a significant step forward in providing direct access for first responders to connect Veterans with essential mental health services offered by the VA.

This newly established multidisciplinary group serves as a bridge between first responders and the VA by facilitating timely notifications about Veterans that could benefit from mental health support, substance abuse treatment, or assistance navigating the justice system. This proactive approach aims to intervene early and ensure that Veterans receive the care they need to address mental illness, addiction, and legal problems. The goal of this collaborative effort is to reduce the risk of homelessness and suicide among this vulnerable population.

At an event hosted Tuesday, Apr. 16, at the newly opened Temple Terrace VA Clinic, first responders had the opportunity to engage with mental health treatment teams to exchange best practices and strategies for supporting Veterans in crisis. The event fostered understanding and enrichment between the two groups, highlighting the importance of a coordinated approach to addressing the complex and unique needs of Veterans. They also heard a firsthand account of how this kind of intervention both saved and changed a Veteran’s life while he was in crisis.

During the event, attendees were given a comprehensive tour of the facility, providing insights into the various methods and resources available to support Veterans on their paths to recovery. From counseling services, art and music therapy, and a domiciliary program, the Temple Terrace VA Clinic offers a range of services designed to help Veterans rebuild their lives.

“This partnership represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to support our Veteran community and be involved in our local community,” said Capt. Dustin Simpson, the VA Police Liaison of the Deflection Team. “By working closely with first responders, we can identify Veterans in crisis and connect them with vital mental health, substance use, and legal services available. It’s a team effort to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our Veterans.” 

The team consists of VA police, VA mental health, and VA Justice Outreach liaisons working with first responders to support Veterans throughout the region. By combining resources and expertise, the Tampa Deflection team creates a more seamless and integrated system of care for Veterans, ensuring that no one falls through the cracks.