TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Today, U.S. Senators Martha McSally (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) pressed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on instituting meaningful action to combat veteran suicide.
The VA currently lacks the ability to locate at-risk veterans and provide mental health treatment to more than 365,000 of Arizona’s 522,000 veterans. The Senators wrote a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie asking the VA to provide an update on five items to reach and help at-risk Arizona veterans.
“We also know that combating veteran suicide requires collaboration between the VA and Arizona’s communities to identify those at risk of suicide and to get them the help they need,”McSally and Sinema wrote. “We are proud to be leading this important effort. Arizona’s collaborative prevention program, called ‘Be Connected,’ provides a link between Arizona’s veteran community, the VA hospitals in Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott, as well as regional resources in an effort to target at-risk veterans and provide suicide prevention services. The program leverages existing resources both in the community and at the VA to eliminate confusing or duplicative services and increase awareness of (and access to) VA mental health programs.”
Arizona’s “Be Connected” program was recently recognized by the President during the signing of his March 5th executive order entitled the “PREVENTS Initiative” or “National Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End Veteran Suicide.” The order creates a cabinet-level task force that will seek to develop a national roadmap for suicide prevention, bringing together state and local organizations.
In Feb., Arizona was one of seven states to participate in the inaugural Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members in Washington, D.C.