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‘It’s OK to not be OK:’ Ph.D. student helps fellow law enforcement members heal from trauma

Speaking from his own painful experiences in law enforcement, Adam Blevins (’14, ’23) leads an organization that is helping officers and other professionals in the field heal from trauma.

Blevins, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Health Sciences – Trauma Informed Care through Liberty’s online program, is the operations director of the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program (VALEAP), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) committed to serving law enforcement officers and first responders who have undergone traumatic critical incidents in the line of duty or in their personal lives. The organization was established in 2008 in the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech and has served thousands of officers from over 100 Virginia agencies and trained over 900 law enforcement peers in joining VALEAP’s mission.

Blevins’ passion, and the ultimate goal of VALEAP, is to encourage members of law enforcement to reach out for help, and in turn heal from, their struggles and traumas. That often requires reducing the stigma within their community.

“It’s a continuum of care, and through that, our mission is to actively combat the stigma surrounding public safety professionals, specifically law enforcement, when it comes to reaching out for help,” Blevins said. “The stigma is very high. We don’t talk about the (trauma), we don’t let anybody see the toll it takes, and we at VALEAP want to change the mindset and spread the idea that it’s OK to not be OK.”

A native of Sugar Grove, Va., who has remained in Southwest Virginia, Blevins began his career as a correctional officer before joining the Virginia State Police, where he served for seven-and-a-half years. While a state trooper, Blevins said he experienced several traumatic critical incidents, and he attended a Post Critical Incident Seminar through VALEAP in 2018.

“It’s a three-day seminar that is free and confidential to our attendees, and during those three days, they receive proven peer support and options for treatments like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. The team that operates these seminars is made up of fellow members of law enforcement, chaplains, and clinicians. When I went to that seminar, before I was involved in VALEAP, and I experienced everything it was for the first time, it changed my life.”

This April 21-24 will mark VALEAP’s 31st seminar, with over 1,200 officers having attended. Seminars are typically held three times every year, with this year’s other seminars scheduled for August 25-28 and October 27-30.

Blevins began volunteering for VALEAP that same year. He also joined the state police CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) team. These teams meet with departments in the hours after a traumatic event, helping to stabilize those affected so that they may return to normal routines. Blevins has now provided CISM services throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York.

Blevins was named operations director of VALEAP in 2022. In addition to his work with VALEAP, he is an auxiliary police officer with the Saltville Police Department.

“All of our members have been trained to assist individuals who are in crisis and in crisis intervention, and the most important part about that is that it’s a peer-driven program,” Blevins said. “That allows for people who have been through similar challenges to use that common ground to normalize common reactions to critical incident stress. They are people who have been there, who know what they might be going through.”

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin donated his first-quarter salary to the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program last April, and Blevins and Youngkin were interviewed about this on the FOX News morning program “Fox & Friends.”

Blevins completed his M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through Liberty University Online Programs in August 2023 and began his doctoral studies three days later, not wasting any time in improving his ability to serve his peers. This marks the third online degree program he has enrolled in with Liberty; he earned his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in 2014.

Blevins said Liberty’s programs helped him balance his education with his career.

“I really enjoyed the instructors. Any time I had a question, I never felt any kind of judgment,” he said. “It was a smooth and easy process, and I never considered going anywhere else because they were so welcoming and helpful to me. I don’t have to worry about rushing off to class as part of my work schedule, we just have our due dates (usually) at the end of each week. Even with the different organizations I work for, it allows me to exercise my time management skills.”


Liberty University offers a first responder discount of 25 percent off tuition. The discount is open to students who are currently (or within the last five years) employed, volunteering full time, or retired from areas of law enforcement, emergency services, fire safety and rescue work, TSA, and Civil Air Patrol. If all qualifications are met, the discount can be combined with Liberty’s military benefit, leading to over 50 percent savings. The program considers training and life experience for college credit.

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