VA expands services to combat alarming veteran suicide rate


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department Of Veterans Affairs says its joining a new effort to combat veteran suicides.

The department says its effort could help veterans coast to coast.

V-a Secretary Dr. David Shulkin says every day, 20 veterans commit suicide. Shulkin says that must change.

“Suicide prevention is our top clinical priority,” he said. “We’ve expanded our veterans crisis line , we are expanding the number of mental health professionals.”

But the VA says it can’t fight the suicide crisis alone. And that’s why it’s teaming up with the non-profit AMVEST to send trained nurses to veterans nationwide.

Joe Chenelly, AMVETS executive director said, “There exists a need, now more than ever, for trained advocates, to confront rising suicide rates, particularly among veterans who face transition stress from leaving the service.”

AMVETS says it’ll spend $700,000 of its own money, on the “HEAL” program.

Its nurses will visit rural areas where VA care can be harder to find. Once on the ground, nurses will help veterans one on one navigate the VA health care system.

The VA says the “HEALl” program comes at an important time for the department.  Last year, the VA expanded the number of people eligible for mental health services.

Lana McKenzie says her team plans to start holding town halls to let veterans know about their new options.

“We intend to heal american veterans, no matter how tough or challenging.”

AMVETS says it also plans to launch a phone hotline for veterans to call so veterans can access potentially life saving resources day or night.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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