VA to launch 24-hour crisis hotline
Big Thicket Messenger - August 2007
To ensure veterans with mental health crisis and to have immediate access to trained coordinators, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will establish a 24-hour national suicide prevention hot line.
“This is another significant step to ensure that veterans, particularly the newest generation of combat vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, receive accessible and compassionate care for their mental health concerns,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson.
The hot line, which is scheduled to begin operations by August 31, 2007, will be based at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center in New York State. Staffed by mental health professionals, it will operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
In addition to staffing the hot line, the suicide prevention coordinator will take part in training clinicians and non-clinicians on warning signs for suicide, guide veterans into care and work within facilities to identify veterans at risk of suicide.
VA’s Canandaigua facility is already a VA Center of excellence focused on suicide prevention, mental health education and research.
VA has the nation’s largest mental health program. The Department recently announced plans to provide suicide prevention coordinators at each of its 153 medical centers, joining more than 9,000 mental health professionals.
Mental health services are provided at each of VA’s 153 medical centers and more than 900 outpatient clinics.
Last month Nicholson announced an initiative to hire 100 new employees to provide readjustment counseling at each of the Department’s 207 community-based Vet Centers.
In July, VA will convene for a four-day mental health forum in Washington with the Department’s top mental health professionals to review a wide range of issues, such as integrating mental health services with primary care, combat trauma, suicide prevention and the special needs of the newest generation of combat veterans.