Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas
VA Police Walk a Different Beat
As Hurricane Harvey made landfall late August 25, response planning was underway along the Texas coast. Harvey created record rainfalls and flooding on the Texas coastline, and moved northward providing major flooding that displaced thousands of Texans. Houston continues recovery.
As state emergency management officials mobilized days earlier, so did VA. The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center supports Veterans throughout the Texas Gulf Coast, and even more Veterans inland. The VA’s goal—simple—provide continued health care support to Veterans, and other services Veterans may need. The VA continues to deliver.
The VA goes beyond quality health care. The protections it provides Veterans, staff, and assets are unmatched. It is obvious, they take care of their own.
VA Police are a unique force of uniformed officers. They don’t normally stand post on the streets, they patrol their federal medical facilities throughout the United States. In Houston, they not only protect the Houston VA, they protect the Veterans, employees, and property placed in the communities providing support as part of the Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS).
The DEMPS is the VA’s main deployment program for clinical and non-clinical staff to an emergency or disaster. DEMPS personnel currently operate in Mobile Medical Units (MMU), and Mobile Pharmacies in Houston, and prepare to travel any distance where medical assistance is needed.
“I talk to all of our VA staff and make sure they know we are here and will assist in any way we can,” said Matthew Balady, a VA police officer from the Phoenix VA Health Care System. The U.S. Marine Corps Veteran adds, “If they do have any issues that may need a police presence, we are here. We really just want to make sure the Veterans can get the assistance they need, and we fully understand they are going through a difficult time.”
The goal is to ensure safety of everyone—Veterans, staff, and the equipment they’ve placed in the community to provide continuity of care. These officers don’t sit idly in their nearby law enforcement vehicle—to the contrary—these officers are on foot all day, monitoring the environment, and having constant conversations with Veterans and other community members arriving for assistance. They are the first impression anyone on these streets have of the VA.
“I never thought I’d be doing something like this as a VA police officer,” said Melanie Henderson, VA police officer from Durham VA in Raleigh, N.C. “It is exciting though,” said the U.S. Air Force Veteran. “I’m glad we are here helping. I feel, I am really doing something worthwhile for the Veterans, especially being a Veteran myself. We are getting a lot accomplished.”
“Safety is paramount”, added Balady. “It is a stressful time, stress is high, it is understandable that anyone can get frustrated. Our goal is to make sure that both the Veterans and staff are safe. Ensuring Veterans are safe, in a safe environment, to receive their care is paramount.”
While walking their new police beat, they’ve assisted in a few medical emergencies. These officers recall responding to a Veteran suffering from heat exhaustion and others with panic attacks, while waiting for services from the Combined Arms facility, that provides a variety of information to help Veterans. The Combined Arms facility, and the Veteran Service Organization representatives inside, make this a popular location where Veterans meet. .
“We are in a location where Veterans gather and are familiar with,” said Henderson. “The Combined Arms facility is providing assistance, and it has gotten crowded. We just hope everyone is calm. We are here to talk, and we are frontline to many of the Veterans who ask questions. I’m having conversations I never thought—talking about our medical resources for Veterans and others in the public who need healthcare.”
The VA Police provide protection at these sites 24 hours a day. Ensuring the safety of everyone and VA property. As recovery from Hurricane Harvey continues at many locations throughout the Texas Gulf Coast, these officers stand ready to protect, wherever they are needed.
Please be sure to check our website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts for further information on our operations.