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Extra help for veterans in a crisis as new service launches

A new service which will take expert help and peer support directly to veterans facing a mental health crisis launches across Norfolk and Waveney next Thursday (6 October).

Called the Veteran’s Response Partnership, the initiative will see a special response car, manned by experienced volunteers, called to support veterans experiencing mental health crisis out-of-hours.

It is being run by the Walnut Tree Project in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), HMP Norwich, Veterans Norfolk and Outside the Wire, a charity which works with ex-military personnel supporting veterans with bespoke substance misuse services. 

The initiative has been made possible thanks to the generosity of local businesses. The car has been provided by Anglia Square Car Sales and graphics added by Autograph Graphics, both of which are based in Norwich.

A local benefactor has also agreed to pay for fuel for the next four years, while the Governor at HMP Norwich has also given the project permission to use the Britannia Veterans’ Centre at the prison as a 24/7 base.

The service will see volunteers who are themselves veterans or have experience of working in mental health or living with a condition called out to incidents. Working alongside specialist teams from NSFT, they will assess the individual and offer peer support, as well as helping them to access other services which may be able to help. The overall aim is to keep veterans out of police cells and get them any further support they may need, such as help with housing or employment issues or drink or drug problems.

Veterans will be able to sign up to the scheme themselves, while other forces charities and organisations can also register veterans with the scheme.

“We are delighted to launch this service, which will offer vital support to veterans with mental health problems who are facing a crisis,” said Luke Woodley, founder of the Walnut Tree  Project who came up with the idea for the service.

“Our aim is to support them better by using people who speak the same language and  understand where they are coming from. It’s about better safeguarding and planning for crisis with veterans so that we can make the whole experience as easier for them.

“We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported the project so far, and would like  to pass our thanks to Anglia Square Car Sales, Autograph Graphics, HMP Norwich and all of our other benefactors. Their generosity will make a real difference to scores of veterans when they need help the most.”

Dr Roger Kingerlee, a Clinical Psychologist with NSFT who works has worked closely with Luke on a number of projects to help veterans with mental health problems, said: “This is a fantastic initiative which will further increase the support available to this group at a time when they are – temporarily – at their most vulnerable.

“Luke has worked tirelessly over the past six months to launch the response car. Not only has he got the backing of local businesses, but has also forged some incredibly useful links with other veteran charities, such as Outside The Wire, who can offer help to those with substance misuse problems where appropriate.

“I hope that the initiative will help keep people out of the cells and instead get them the support which they may need, and set them on their way to recovery.”