Late Breaking News
VA Veterans Crisis Line Increasing Capacity 50% by End of Year
- Categorized in: Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), News, October 2012
The executive order adds to that effort by directing the agency to use its pay-setting authorities, loan repayment and scholarships, partnerships with healthcare workforce training programs and collaborative arrangements with community-based providers to recruit, hire and place 1,600 mental-health professionals by June 2013.
Shinseki and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said implementation of the new initiative is a priority for their agencies.
“VA will work closely with our federal partners to implement the executive order immediately and continue to expand access to the high-quality mental-healthcare services our veterans have earned and deserve,” Shinseki said in a statement.
“The president has rightly challenged us to do even more to prevent suicide among servicemembers, veterans and military families, and the entire leadership of the Department of Defense shares his determination to put a stop to these tragedies,” Panetta said in a statement.
Reaching Troops and Veterans
The ramped-up efforts come as lawmakers and leaders acknowledge that more must be done to help returning troops and veterans who are struggling. Soon after the president’s executive order was announced, officials from the private and public sector released the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
The report updates a national suicide strategy report from 2001 that addresses suicide in the U.S. The objectives in the new report “reflect advances in suicide-prevention knowledge, research and practice, as well as broader changes in society and health care delivery,” the revised report stated.
“Suicide prevention is not exclusively a mental-health issue. It is a health issue that must be addressed at many levels by different groups working together in a coordinated and synergistic way. Federal, state, tribal and local governments; healthcare systems, insurers and clinicians; businesses; educational institutions; community-based organizations; and family members, friends, and others — all have a role to play in suicide prevention. The revised National Strategy reflects this understanding,” the report stated.
In announcing the report last month, federal leaders pointed out that troops and veterans are a part of this national suicide problem.
“Today, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people age 15 to 24. And we’ve seen especially alarming trends in our armed forces. Just this July, the Army lost 38 soldiers to suicide, an all-time one-month high. These deaths are particularly heartbreaking, because we know they are preventable,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who announced $56 million in new grants to support the strategy.
U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh, who serves as a co-chair of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public and private sector partnership that formed the task force charged with revising the suicide strategy, said the U.S. is losing “more of our soldiers to suicide than we are to combat.”
VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould said at the announcement that VA was releasing a new public service announcement, called “Side by Side,” which focuses on the role family and community can play in supporting veterans in need of help. Gould also explained that the VA will increase the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line outlined in the executive order by hiring 100 more professionals to staff the line to bring the total to about 300 professionals.
“We believe it will fully meet the demand that we are currently facing. This administration has a commitment to make sure that, if this is not enough, we will be hiring more,” he said.
He urged veterans in need of help to call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.