As we approach Suicide Awareness Month, your Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs would like to share what has been happening over the past year to create awareness and develop a plan aimed at eliminating veteran and service member suicide.
Crisis hotlines are out there and meet an absolute need in our communities. What is often missing though is a discussion about prevention and empowering our families and communities to know what to look for, and more importantly what to do, before their family member or friend is in crisis.
That is where the WDVA Suicide Prevention Program comes in. With funding from the WA State Legislature, WDVA hired a full-time staff person to work with community experts and providers to develop a statewide suicide prevention plan. Codie Garza joined WDVA in September, 2019 and immediately began working with other agencies and service providers to get an inventory on what was currently available and where the gaps are. The SMVF Suicide Prevention Advisory Committee comprised of military and Veteran subject matter experts in Washington State to help develop the statewide suicide prevention plan.
In January, 2020, Governor Inslee accepted a Governor’s Challenge from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Health & Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The challenge is aimed at helping local leaders work together to prevent suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their families.
Codie led the development of teams who participated in virtual site visits and policy academies as they built the Washington State action plan. You can view this working document online at https://www.dva.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2020-08/Action%20Plan%202020%20w_o_timeline.pdf (Please keep in mind that this document will change as the teams continue their work.) In November, the Washington State plan will be submitted to the Governor’s office where long-term goals for the state will be identified.
At WDVA, we see the Governor’s Challenge as a tool to help us further the development of already robust partnerships with the ultimate goal of addressing the critical loss of Veterans’ lives in our communities. To find out more, or get involved, please visit us online at URL or contact Codie Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org.