White House Task Force To Look Into Ways To Prevent Veterans Suicide
It’s a tragic tale. Too often, veterans that dutifully served in the military return home suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder to the point where they take their own lives. The Trump Administration recently stated that 20 service members and veterans die by suicide each day. Therefore, the White House is taking action to address this concern by issuing an executive order that will create a task force to delve into efforts to prevent suicides by veterans.
Under the executive order, entitled “President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS),” the White House is bringing together key officials from multiple government agencies to coordinate a strategy to look into veterans suicide and release legislative recommendations to the president within the next 365 days. The task force will work with state and local communities on ways to prevent suicide and will consider new grants for mental health support and outreach similar to the Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which provides funding directly to local charities and city programs to help individualize assistance plans for veterans.
According to the executive order, the grants would help local communities “to increase their capacity to collaborate with each other to integrate service delivery to veterans and to coordinate resources for veterans.”
“We are committed to saving veteran lives, but just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end veteran suicide alone,” said Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We must work side by side with our partners at all levels of government — and in the private sector — to provide our veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need. This executive order advances the public health approach to suicide prevention further by identifying key integrations and connections across the federal government and communities that can be used to save veterans’ lives.” Wilkie will designate a VA official to serve as the executive director of the task force.
The task force seeks to address concerns also raised by the Government Accountability Office in a December 2018 report that recommended that VA: (1) establish an approach for overseeing its suicide prevention media outreach efforts that includes clear delineation of roles and responsibilities for those in leadership and contract oversight roles, including during periods of staff turnover or program changes; and (2) require officials within the VA Office of Suicide Prevention and Mental Health to establish targets for the metrics the office uses to evaluate the effectiveness of its suicide prevention media outreach campaign.
It will be interesting to see what recommendations the new task force emerges with and the role grant funding will play in seeking to ease the number of veterans who commit suicide.
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