Two TPS officers who are working tirelessly to advocate for veterans’ wellness in Toronto have received the 2021 Mental Health Excellence Award (MHEA).
Established in 2016 by the Toronto Police Services Board, the MHEA is presented annually to TPS members who have demonstrated excellence, compassion and respect in their interactions with members of the public who are in crisis.
This year, a panel of community, Board and Service members, chose to honour Constables Aaron Dale and Jeremy Burns for their development of the Military Veteran Wellness Program, which helps officers connect veterans with various support services in the city.
Constables Dale and Burns both come from a military background and through their mutual experiences and challenges adjusting to civilian life after their service, they recognized a pressing and unfilled need in the community.
In this short video, they explain why it is so important to advocate for and connect veterans with the critical supports they need.
“Officers respond to people in crisis every day and this program provides them with additional, specialized, training to understand the unique issues veterans may be facing,” said Chief of Police James Ramer. “Every veteran deserves dignity, honour and respect for their service to Canada, and this vital program will help them get the services they need to overcome adversity, and improve their well being. I’m very proud of the important work Constables Dale and Burns are doing to spread awareness about veteran wellness.”
Chair Jim Hart noted that “this award reflects the great priority that the Board places on the critical issue of police interaction with people experiencing mental illness, and the importance of compassion, and the use of a holistic response. This year’s award winners are extremely deserving, and their comprehensive, multi-pronged program serves as a vital lifeline to veterans who may be struggling in their transition to society, offering them access to a variety of services to help them overcome the unique challenges they face.”
Jennifer Chambers, Executive Director of the Empowerment Council, and the Co-Chair of the Board’s Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Panel, who was part of the selection panel for this year’s MHEA, stated that “veterans are too often left traumatized and isolated following their experiences of conflict and peacekeeping, and struggle to rejoin life in this city. This program is a model that deserves to spread provincially and nationally, and we congratulate and thank these officers for their innovative and compassionate initiative.”
Leah Dunbar, another community member who sat on the selection panel, and brings with her many years of professional experience in healthcare and mobile crisis teams, stated that “this year’s award recipients provide a shining example of how our Toronto Police Service members support people in need, in this case, veterans, and provide them with an array of support and services before a situation reaches a crisis point. This initiative will, no doubt, have a positive impact within Toronto, and beyond, and the officers should be commended for recognizing an important need and taking effective action.”
On behalf of the Board, Chief Ramer, Command and all members of the Service, we extend our sincere congratulations to Constables Dale and Burns. The officers will be presented with their award at a ceremony planned for next year.
Contact: Sandy Murray