NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - It's not always easy to get veterans to open up about mental health issues, but a Pasco County detective and her four-legged companion help start the conversation.
As part of the behavioral health intervention team, Pasco County Detective Victoria Tellier is called out to help in times of struggle and crisis.
"We work with people with mental health and substance abuse. We go out there if people are suicidal, we'll go out there and talk to them. Try to give them resources", said Tellier.
She works with veterans because when she's not in her sheriff's office uniform, she's wearing a military uniform.
"I'm in the United States Army," she said. "When I came into the unit they were for me working with them due to my history of being in the military. A lot of what I'm dealing with right now is our Vietnam veterans because they didn't receive the help they needed when they came back home. Back in the day, they didn't document when something traumatic happened to them in the military because they were taught to be tough. They were taught not to express their feelings or emotions. I'll go out there and I'll talk to them two to three times a week or if they're ok with it we'll go out to breakfast and we'll sit and have breakfast with each other and a cup of coffee. They just need that person to relate to and talk to."
Her four-legged partner, Tacoma is a big help too. He is a therapy dog.
Tacoma is a therapy dog who helps put veterans at ease.
"He's a chocolate lab," she explained. "Three-years-old. He was provided to us by Brevard County from the pound. Someone gave him up. He works with me with my veterans. He comes out. He'll sit with them. I've had people lay in the driveways together with him. And he'll just lay on top of them and they just cuddle with him and it seems to bring them that ease and calm to where they can just sit there, play with him, pet him and they just open up more it seems like when they're having something else to interact with."
Tellier said she is proud to serve with a compassionate ear and a comforting companion.
Pasco County Detective Victoria Tellier and her dog Tacoma provides therapy to veterans.
"A lot of my veterans, I would say 99%, are getting better and I get them into the counseling and the therapies and they're starting to trust more. I think it's my calling in life to be able to reach out to these veterans that need help. They've done so much for us and for our country that I feel the little that I can do for them to get them the help they need it's just an amazing feeling," said Tellier.
LINK: Click here for information about mental health assistance.
LINK: Click here for information about the Veterans Support Line.
LINK: Click here for information about the Veterans Crisis Line.