My message to our veteran community in this edition is of utmost importance and urgency. This is a long piece and I hope you read it all the way through so we can work together on suicide prevention.
Your WDVA’s Suicide Prevention Program vision is to Identify, Connect, and Save. Washington State lost 1025 Veterans to suicide from 2015 to 2020. We believe we can have positive outcomes and prevent Service Member, Veteran and Family (SMVF) suicide by using the principles of Identify, Connect, and Save.
Four suicide prevention specialists will work in our communities to establish resources, participate in information dissemination, connect Veterans to resources or support in their community, and provide training where needed. In addition to establishing a “no wrong door” policy, we believe in investing in promising practices within the community. A collaborative effort between WDVA and the Health Care Authority, will result in a Certified Peer Counselor program where volunteers can become state certified to work within Behavioral Health settings on a peer level and provide outreach services and peer support to SMVF’s in need.
Our Suicide Prevention Program has also partnered with the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and their Families. Thirty-five states have taken the challenge and have convened multiagency teams to implement best practices that are right for their state. Washington’s team convened in January 2020 and includes the Federal VA, UW Forefront, Nine Line Veterans Services, Heroes Homestead, WA National Guard, JBLM, DoD, Health Care Authority, Department of Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Washington State’s Governor’s Challenge Team has three priorities:
Identify Service Members, Veterans, and Families (SMVF) and encourage consistent screening in the community for suicide risk.
Promote connectedness and improving care transitions
Increase awareness and education / training about firearms and lethal means safety.
To accomplish these priorities, the Team is helping strengthen communities to be “Ready to serve Veterans” through education and awareness to healthcare providers and those serving SMVF. We know that only 21% of veterans receive their health care from the Federal VA in the state of Washington, so it is vital that community providers are equipped with the information and tools needed to serve them and their families. The team is also educating SMVF on how to safely store firearms, and other lethal means such as medications, and teaching suicide prevention skills; to include LEARN workshops and SAFER Homes Discussions.
Funding for these projects comes for several sources including a 2021 Budget Proviso, 2022 Budget Proviso, and funds tied to House Bill 1181 which passed in 2022.
2021 Budget Proviso: $449k
2022 Budget Proviso: $190k
So far, here are some of the milestones and accomplishments achieved by the WDVA Suicide Prevention Program and the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and their Families.
- Deployed 4 Suicide Prevention Peer Specialists across Washington State.
- Selected Psych Armor as the training of choice for Veteran Ready cultural competency and moral injury for healthcare providers using funding from the Washington Department of Health.
- Incorporated “Ask the Question” (have you served in the Military?) information into the 2022 annual crisis intervention training at the Criminal Justice Training Center. All peace officers are required to complete this training which, this year, highlights Veterans in crisis, PTSD, and Ask the Question.
- Suicide Risk Management/” Never Worry Alone” information was sent to WDVA War Trauma providers in August, 2021, and to approximately 500 Western Washington Mental Health Providers in February 2022.
- Promoted Tribal mental health with the “Native & Strong” campaign through DOH, HCA, and additional partner support.
- Supported the implementation of the Expiration Term of Service (ETS) Sponsorship program, with 38 sponsors trained to date
- Offer monthly Federal VA S.A.V.E Training to Veteran Service Officers including Tribal Communities
- Offer Free Online Lethal Means Safety and Safety Planning Course
- Provided a Toolkit for FFLs
- SAFER Structured Conversations
- Facilitated seven LEARN trainings to a total of 129 participants, and now have a team of four mentors, with three more individuals anticipated to become certified in late February.
- Firearms Cultural Competency Training available for free until June 30th, Washington State Providers, on All Patients Safe Platform. This training is for clinicians to be able to hold SAFER Conversations revolving around Firearms, Culture, & Suicide Care.
- Held the Together Washington- Veteran Suicide Prevention Summit in 2021 with 91 attendees
- Held the COVID to Connectedness Conference hosted by UW Forefront with 451 attendees
- The Governors Challenge Advisory Committee hosted a Site Visit with SAMHSA to assess and further develop needs and goals in early May, 2022.
As we look ahead, the coming months will include activities such as the development of a resource database, a web-based application for resources, and more learning opportunities as we reintegrate into the community following the COVID-19 Pandemic.
We encourage all Veteran Advocates to connect with their regional Suicide Prevention Peer Specialist to get involved with training and learn what resources are available for them. If interested in connecting with the Suicide Prevention Team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or a service member, veteran or a member of their family need support, services or information, please let us know.
Some available resources are included below:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (veterans press 1)
Crisis text Line: text “HEAL” to 741741