GFPD officer raising funds to support treatment program for post-traumatic stress

Sgt. Rich LaBard credits the Uniformed Service Program at Brattleboro Retreat with saving his life.

In 2013, the Great Falls Police Department officer participated in the Uniformed Service Program to treat the undiagnosed post-traumatic stress he’d been dealing with for years after a 2004 incident in Great Falls.

Now he’s close to reaching a $3,000 fundraising goal for the Ride for Heroes motorcycle ride at the Brattleboro campus in Vermont on Aug. 19. Last year he spoke at the event and worked with the Brattleboro staff to make this video on his experience.

The motorcycle ride raises funds to cover services that insurance won’t, such as continuing education for program counselors and recreational activities like fly fishing.

Those activities aren’t part of formal counseling or treatment, but LaBard said fly fishing was immensely helpful to him while he was going through the program.

He’d fly fished for years, but just kind of quit while he was suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress, he said.

“It helped me reconnect with who I was,” LaBard said.

About nine emergency responders from Great Falls have participated in the program and LaBard said he’s helped connect countless others around Montana with the program.

One of his priorities is to spread the word about the program and other resources available to those suffering like he was. He also hopes to make others feel more comfortable about asking for help.

LaBard now speaks to a lot of administrators about the program and said the cost to send officers to Brattleboro is lower than the cost to replace them if they leave the job, plus departments can retain officers with training and job experience.

But most importantly, they come home healthy, he said.

“It’s far more beneficial to communities and agencies to help their people get better,” he said.

The $3,000 goal was something LaBard didn’t think he’d reach, but as of Tuesday evening, he was up to $2,560. Should there be a donor who wants to make a major gift, Brattleboro is working to raise $25,000 toward a new program that will use respiratory sinus arrhythmia biofeedback training to build stress resilience for those preparing for combat or other high stress incidents like what law enforcement and first responders could experience.

The Uniformed Service Program is currently building a biofeedback and virtual reality training center that will have 12 computer training stations equipped with biofeedback sensors and software, according to Brattleboro. The staff is also hoping to provide handheld/wearable biofeedback training devices for participants to use during treatment in the program.

Want to support local law enforcement and others in need of treatment? You can donate to LaBard’s campaign here.