White House presents new strategy in preventing military and veteran suicides

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FILE – The White House is shown in Washington on March 18, 2021. The Biden administration is rolling out a new initiative aimed at reducing suicides by gun and combating the significant increases in suicides by members of the military and veterans. The White House is announcing the new plan Tuesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, file)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The White House released a plan Tuesday in reducing military and veteran suicides, outlining priorities that include increasing the safe storage of firearms and medications and enhancing crisis care.

“These women and men volunteered to serve their country, often in dangerous conditions,” The White House press release said. “We owe them, their families, and their fellow service members and veterans a better, more coordinated response to address the military and veteran suicide crisis.”

Along with the Biden administration’s plan, several lawmakers recently introduced the Save Our Servicemembers (SOS) Act, which pushes agencies to review its current programs in preventing suicides.

At the state level, in Fort Hood, Texas, The People First Center was unveiled early October to assist service members in sexual assault and those at-risk of suicide in providing resources, training and support. The center is expected to be in full operation in 2022 and comes after an independent review in 2020, which detailed a high rate of sexual harassment, assault and drug use among other problems.

The fact sheet described five components of their strategy:

1. Improving Lethal Means Safety

The White House proposed that agencies including the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, Veterans Affairs and Office of Emergency Medical Services in the Department of Transportation to collaborate in a mass campaign to increase the safe storage of firearms and medications. This approach will including raising awareness among service members, family and friends as well as training crisis providers in safety planning intervention. These agencies will also be evaluating programs that would reduce immediate access to firearms and weapons for self-harm.

2. Enhancing Crisis Care and Facilitating Care Transitions

According to the press release, agencies will use evidence-based risk-assessments and safety planning in urgent cares, emergency departments and transports to identify at-risk service members, veterans and family members in early intervention. The goal is for providers to de-escalate crises and improve care in emergency settings.

3. Increasing Access to and Delivery of Effective Care

To reduce barriers for service members to seek mental health care, the Biden administration proposed training providers in suicide risk-assessment and care, increasing confidentiality, and lowering or eliminating co-payments for mental health treatment.

4. Addressing Upstream Risk and Protective Factors

Federal agencies will expand partnerships will federal, state, territory, private and local public entities to reduce housing and food insecurity and support service members and veterans economically. The Biden administration’s objective is to help with the transition of military measures to civilian life.

5. Increasing Research Coordination, Data Sharing, and Evaluation Efforts

The White House outlined its goal in advancing and sharing research among agencies. This collection of new data will aid in evaluating how effective prevention programs are and help to implement a coordinated National Research Strategy in how the public understands suicide prevention.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is available at all times by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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