Veterans’ Service Agencies to Co-Host Suicide Prevention Summit

Last month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released its findings from the most current and comprehensive analysis of Veteran suicide rates in the United States to-date. The data includes overall suicide rates by state, age, and gender for FY 2014, and the results for Maine were staggering.

VA Maine Healthcare System, Maine Vet Centers and the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services are taking proactive measures to address the epidemic, including hosting the 1st Annual Military Veteran Symposium. The event will be held on Tuesday, December 12 at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Community Education Center.

Recognizing the urgency of solving the complex issue of Veteran suicide, the symposium will bring together a variety of federal, state, and local resources to focus on strategies to reduce the risk of Veteran suicide. The symposium will feature a keynote address by VA Deputy Secretary Thomas G. Bowman, as well as three panel discussions: Personal Stories; Cultural Competency; and Community Resources. The symposium will conclude with a working group focused on addressing barriers to care.

“Ending Veteran suicide is my number one clinical priority for VA Maine,” said Ryan Lilly, Director of the VA Maine Healthcare System. “Through this important symposium, we will bring together the best public and private sector minds, Veterans, families, and other stakeholders with one important goal: stopping Veteran suicide in Maine.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, only six of the estimated 20 Veterans a day who commit suicide were enrolled in and using VA healthcare. For this reason, VA Secretary David J. Shulkin, M.D. has made suicide prevention his top clinical priority. The VA has established memorandum of agreements (MOAs) with a number of agencies to enhance outreach, education, care-coordination and research with the goal of eliminating barriers to care.

“The symposium will be the first of its kind in Maine,” stated Adria Horn, Director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services. “The prevalence of Veteran suicide in our communities highlights the need for meaningful collaboration that will provide true pathways to care and prevention.”

Last year, the Maine Legislature passed LD 1231, which supports a pilot program providing mental health case management and services to Veterans. “I’m optimistic that we as a state are taking the necessary steps to help our Veteran population and I look forward to the outcome of the program,” Horn added.

Amy Marcotte, Team Leader for one of Maine’s five Vet Centers, indicated that, “There are many Veterans who may not show a single sign of wanting to cause harm to themselves before committing suicide. Our Veterans are self-reliant – it is up to the service community to focus on the injuries both visible and invisible.”

To register for the 1st Annual Military Veteran Symposium, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/1st-annual-military-veteran-symposium-ticke....

Continuing Education Credits and Certificates of Attendance will be issued by AdCare.

To learn more about available resources for Veterans and their families, please contact the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services at 207-430-6035 or visit their website www.maine.gov/veterans.

If interested in learning more about suicide prevention, please contact VA Maine Healthcare System Suicide Prevention Coordinator Tracy Charette at 207-623-8411 ext. 5017.