Sunrise First Responders are First Adopters of New Vet-Connect App
Mobile application connects military and first responders to free local resources.
Vet-Connect was developed by the LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation, a South Florida nonprofit organization created to reduce the epidemic of veteran suicide related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Founder Janine Lutz created the organization in 2013 after losing her son—the foundation’s namesake Marine veteran who was deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—to suicide.
“After losing Johnny, and the realization that we’ve lost over 100,000 veterans to PTSD-related suicides and the myriad of everyday life stressors affecting them, my mission was clear: facilitate support through camaraderie and building local community,” describes Janine Lutz. “First responders are often in the best position to identify veterans in a crisis situation, intervene, and get them connected to our local safety net before it’s too late. The City of Sunrise has already been a great partner in this program!”
South Floridians submitted into the Vet-Connect app are contacted personally within 24 hours by a veteran in the Lutz Buddy Up Broward Social Club, which is the local chapter of the organization’s growing network of free veterans’ meetups. The Broward group has regularly welcomed 50 or more veterans at each meeting since March 2013. This network of regional Buddy Up clubs has already been approved as a mental health resource by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. As the Vet-Connect app use increases, Buddy Up clubs will continue to grow by building on existing relationships with veterans’ centers around the country.
“Vet-Connect works instantly and then Lutz Buddy Up is the long term solution,” Lutz continues. “The City of Sunrise knows that when they find a military insignia or otherwise determine through conversation that they’re helping a veteran, they can drop that veteran’s info in the app and we will quickly connect them with a group of local vets that know exactly what they’re going through.”
“I was on my last leg with the overwhelming amount of pressure that was building,” said retired CW3 veteran Dave Fleckenstein, who served on the front-lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. “This program connected me to a band of brothers I never knew I had. They are always there when I need them to be.”
“We’ve seen the success of Lutz Buddy Up in South Florida,” says Sunrise Police Department Sergeant Darwin Arroyo. “Our officers are skilled at de-escalating situations, and now we’ll have the ability to offer veterans rapid follow-up by a group of peers who personally understand the issues affecting members of the military. The Sunrise Police Department and Sunrise Fire Rescue plan to incorporate Vet-Connect into briefings with all first responder personnel.”
“I am confident that the City of Sunrise Police and Fire-Rescue Departments will set a great example for other agencies throughout the country in recognizing these Buddy Up Social Clubs and the Vet-Connect app as community building and lifesaving best practices,” says Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan. “In addition to our designation as a Purple Heart City and our reservation of special parking spaces for Combat Wounded veterans at City facilities, initiatives such as our Veterans Advisory Board have consistently given a voice to veterans’ concerns. We’re proud to do more to honor the sacrifices of members of our military and lessen their distress by spreading the awareness of Vet-Connect.”
Vet-Connect is available for download now from the Google Play app store for Android phones at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gjhdigital.Vet-Connect and in the iTunes app store for Apple phones at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vet-connect/id1451469621?mt=8.