House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne) introduced the No Veteran Left Behind Act (HB 370) on Tuesday to help improve crisis intervention and services for veterans who are suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. The bill is also sponsored by Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow) and Rep. Charlie Miller (R-Brunswick).
“More than 100,000 active duty service members and over 600,000 veterans call North Carolina home,” said Leader Bell. “Our veterans and their families face unique challenges, especially those on active duty. After talking with veteran advocates, law enforcement and local leaders, we believe the No Veteran Left Behind Act will help address an important need in our state by providing local law enforcement with additional training to assist veterans in need.”
Specifically, the legislation creates a pilot program for several military and veteran heavy counties in North Carolina to improve and expand training for local law enforcement and first responders on dealing with veteran-specific crisis intervention, suicide prevention and available resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This includes Brunswick, Craven, Cumberland, Onslow, Union and Wayne counties.
“North Carolina is the proud home to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families who served the United States in our Armed Forces and face unique challenges in this pandemic recovery,” said Speaker Moore. “The No Veteran Left Behind Act will benefit not just North Carolina veterans in pilot counties, but their communities and local leaders as well. We are committed to identifying statewide needs through this initiative that will help more military families succeed in our state.”
One of the primary bill sponsors, Rep. Charlie Miller, is also the Chief Deputy of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office. “In my role as Chief Deputy in Brunswick County, I’m able to recognize the areas in which we need to restructure our approach, specifically in the way we address the needs of those who risked their lives for our freedom,” said Rep. Miller. “I feel strongly that this pilot program will be of great benefit to the community.”
The training will be administered through The Independence Fund Inc., which is a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of veterans and their families. Under the bill, The Independence Fund will also partner with state and local governments to assess each county’s initial response to veterans in crises and conclude with an updated data collection process map developed.
Primary bill sponsor and retired Marine, Rep. George Cleveland, said the bill is important for military heavy areas like Onslow County, which is home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “As a retired Marine and the representative of a district with tens of thousands of active duty service members and veterans, I believe this legislation will help our local law enforcement and first responders better support veterans and military families,” said Rep. Cleveland.
The No Veteran Left Behind Act also has the support of local sheriffs who will be included in the pilot program, including Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes who said he believes it will help them better meet the needs of the many veterans and active duty service members in their county.
“I want to thank House Majority Leader John Bell, the bill sponsors and The Independence Fund for their work on behalf of our local law enforcement officers and veterans,” said Sheriff Hughes. “This is an important bill that will help us better serve our community.”