Virginia public schools aid Sound Off in app development

Via Loudoun County Public Schools:

A leader in the defense industry and a new non-profit organization are hoping students at the Academies of Loudoun can help them deliver a product to help save the lives of veterans who are grappling with mental health issues.

General Dynamics IT and Sound Off are partnering to deliver a mobile app for use by veterans.  The app will be piloted in the state of Texas starting in March.  The mobile app seeks to overcome four key barriers veterans face when seeking treatment: geography, bureaucracy, trust and anonymity.

When a veteran finds himself or herself in need of treatment, he or she can log on to the app to create an account with just a zip code and a PIN.  From there, they are directed to a list of therapists or “Battle Buddies” (military peers) from which they can choose to schedule a phone conversation over a “blind” phone connection.  The therapists are volunteering their time to the program through a partnership with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.  Feedback collected from both the veteran and the therapist or battle buddy will guide future interactions.

The need for this kind of mental health support is staggering.  Twenty-two veterans per day die by suicide.  The federal government commits $15 billion per year to the cause, yet at least half of those in need of the services funded by this allocation never seek help.

That’s where the young coders at the Academies of Loudoun come in.  The General Dynamics IT division is the technical partner on this project, but they need some help in accomplishing their work by this ambitious deadline.  They are hoping coders from the Academies will put their Swift programming skills to use during winter break to work remotely on their effort of creating the mobile app on the Apple IOS platform. 

General Dynamics’s Advisor for Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Giving Lisa Iannorino and Sound Off’s Founder and CEO William Negley visited the Academies on December 13th and 14th to meet with interested students during their lunch hour.  For Negley, the mission is personal.  Negley’s brother-in-law, a former Navy SEAL, died by suicide within a month of separating from the service.  Negley noted that many active-duty military personnel won’t pursue mental health support for fear of not receiving a security clearance or being admitted to elite programs.

As Negley said, “This is not some high school project.”  He repeatedly emphasized the real-world aspect of working on this project alongside IT professionals and the meaningful contribution the mobile app will have for veterans.  Negley hopes the pilot in Texas will be successful and allow for a scaling-up of the app to serve veterans across the country and on the Android platform as well.

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