A bill introduced by House Majority Leader John Bell, R-Wayne, is meant to help improve crisis intervention and services for veterans suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.

House Bill 370, No Veteran Left Behind Act, 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, a news release says. It focuses on dealing with veteran-specific crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and available resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including Brunswick, Craven, Cumberland, Onslow, Union and Wayne counties.

“More than 100,000 active duty service members and over 600,000 veterans call North Carolina home,” Bell said. “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.”

Other bill sponsors are House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, and Rep. Charlie Miller, R-Brunswick.

“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 Moore in a statement. “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.”

The training will be administered through The Independence Fund Inc., a North Carolina-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of veterans and their families. Under the bill, the release says, The Independence Fund will 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.

Cleveland said the bill is important for military heavy areas such as 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,” Cleveland said.

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.