In August 2018, VA and American Veterans (AMVETS) announced a partnership to expand ongoing Veteran suicide prevention efforts and establish intervention programs for at-risk Veterans.
The partnership followed a January 2018 executive order signed by President Trump that directed the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to collaborate by providing mental health and suicide prevention resources to transitioning service members, and Veterans during the first 12 months after their separation from service.
“VA and AMVETS are working together to identify and eliminate the barriers Veterans face in accessing health care, enroll more at-risk Veterans into the VA health care system, and provide training for those who work with Veterans so that intervention begins once warning signs are identified,” said VA National Director of Suicide Prevention Dr. Keita Franklin.
The partnership’s keystone program is AMVETS’ HEAL, which stands for health care, evaluation, advocacy and legislation. HEAL’s team of experienced clinical experts intervene directly on behalf of service members, Veterans and their families and caregivers to help them access high-quality health care, including mental health and specialized services, for conditions including traumatic brain injury, polytrauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. AMVETS offers HEAL’s free services to anyone rather than exclusively to its members.
This example of expanded outreach is directly aligned with VA’s public health approach to Veteran suicide, defined in the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, released last year. This approach looks beyond supporting the individual to involving peers, family members, and the community.
When it comes to preventing suicide, there is no wrong door to care. That’s why the VA-AMVETS partnership also provides processes for VA to refer Veterans for HEAL services and vice versa. This collaboration will bring lifesaving resources directly to more Veterans and their families and caregivers, even if the Veteran in need is not seeking health care in the VA system.
HEAL support services can be accessed via the toll-free number, 1-833 VET-HEAL (1-833-838-4325), or by email at VETHEAL@amvets.org.
The health and well-being of our nation’s Veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, Veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that Veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it. To learn about the resources available for Veterans and how you can #BeThere for a Veteran as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Reporters covering Veteran mental health issues can visit ReportingOnSuicide.org for important guidance on how to communicate about suicide.
About the author: Aimee Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Program Analyst for Partnerships in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.