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As a 30-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Richard (Rick) Johnson JD’97 has always been drawn to challenges and eager to pioneer solutions. He fought in Desert Storm and deployed to more than 40 countries, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia. He served as commander of a C-130 squadron, inspector general for the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and chief of staff for the Marine Corps Reserves. While in the Reserves, he earned his law degree from VLS.
Now retired from the Marine Corps, Johnson’s appetite for problem-solving has led him to tackle the military’s suicide and mental health crisis through his role as chief operating officer at the Lebanon, New Hampshire based company Voi.
“When I was chief of staff for the Marine Corps Reserves—this was in 2010 after the Afghanistan surge—I was dealing with a service member’s suicide or attempt every couple of weeks. I knew that we had an issue,” Johnson said. “When we created Voi Detect and Voi Reach, I got very excited that we could actually help provide care.”
The company combines cutting-edge technology with proven psychiatric techniques to identify and aid people with mental health challenges. With Voi Detect, a commanding officer can administer an assessment using any internet-connected device. The program reads the results using an algorithm which replicates a psychiatrist’s judgment. Voi Reach provides a coach who assists the individual and works with their support network.
Johnson said that Voi’s ease of use and its reach make it ideal for military use, particularly for service members in areas that lack resources. Voi’s programs are currently used in hospitals, at colleges and universities, and in the Air Force. They are in talks with the Veterans Administration, and plan to expand their market to Japan.
As the company continues to grow, Johnson feels that the education he received while at VLS has prepared him for his key role at Voi.
“Even though I don’t don’t practice law any longer, everything I learned at [Vermont Law School], I use on a daily basis. Contracting, managing people, human resources, a lot of it came from my three years at law school and I truly appreciate what I learned there.”