New River Valley Community Services, which offers mental health services out of facilities in both Blacksburg and Radford, is among the more than 40 community programs and state agencies that will participate in a new pilot program to prevent suicides and close gaps in access to health care for service members, veterans and their families.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently announced the new program, which Virginia has joined along with Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire and Texas. The pilot program will run through September 2020.
The Virginia Identify, Screen, and Refer Pilot will enhance the commonwealth’s efforts to screen military individuals and theri families who have been identified as suicide risks and connect them to services.
“As an Army veteran, I know firsthand the challenges that our service members may face while on active duty, in their transition to civilian life and beyond,” said Gov. Northam. “That’s why I’ve made it a priority to ensure Virginia is equipped to provide quality behavioral health and supports and that our veterans have access to them. This pilot program will help save lives, and it will help service providers better understand the needs of service members, veterans and their families.”
The program will address a number of issues, including enhancing communication between military-related and civilian healthcare providers; educating community providers about the number of at-risk militar-related families in their midst; and reducing duplicative efforts and gaps in community programs and services resulting from a lack of collaboration.
“Stigma around behavioral health keeps many service members and veterans from seeking care in federal treatment systems,” said Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins. “State and community agencies are critical to prevent and end suicide among members of the military and veterans.”
The Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide team is working with a diverse group of agencies, who are voluntarily stepping up without additional resources. These partners have committed to identify at-risk families more accurately and reliably, to train staff in military culture and the best suicide prevention practices and to connect individuals to military- and veteran-specific community resources such as the VA.
“It is essential for local agencies to be a part of this mission,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD. “Approximately 70 percent of veterans who die by suicide were not connected to VA care at the time of their deaths. This program will help build infrastructure to serve our military and veteran citizens and gather data on what resources we will need to sustain these essential services.”
Since the inception of Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among military families earlier this year, Virginia’s interagency team has trained more than 500 community services providers in military cultural competency and suicide preventio and hosted six statewide Military Culture and Suicide Prevention Summits. The team also hosted two regional planning sessions focused on closing access to behavioral healthcare gaps.
Military service members, veterans and family members who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide—and those who know someone in crisis—can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Veterans and caregivers, press 1) for confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.