Capt. (Ret.) Larry Norton, Ph.D.; Founder, Valor with Integrity Program for Emergency Responders (VIPER), Mirmont Treatment Center
First responders are often the last to ask for help. It’s something Larry Norton learned over his 21-year career with the Philadelphia Police Department. So when he retired at 41, Norton decided to get a degree in counseling and specialize in addiction, PTSD, stress and relationships. Upon realizing that there wasn’t an in-patient recovery program dedicated to first responders, he founded VIPER at Main Line Health’s Mirmont Treatment Center.
During their 28-day stay at VIPER’s facility, patients have 40 hours of general therapy and an additional nine tailored to first responders. In its first six years, VIPER has treated more than 680 police officers, firefighters and combat veterans from Chicago, Boston, Manhattan and our area.
One firefighter couldn’t rid his mind of the image of a 3-year-old baby and his mother in a closet, their bodies fused together by the heat of a fire. A Gulf War veteran confessed the 20-year secret that had driven him to addiction: following orders to kill a group of men who were enemies but unarmed. “These are things that only those who’ve served can understand,” Norton says. “They’ve spent their careers helping other people, and now we’re here to help them.”