January 27, 2020

Chairman Takano Announces Comprehensive Strategy to Address Veteran Suicide in 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) announced the Committee’s new strategy to address veteran suicide, which is inspired by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) seven core strategies for suicide prevention. Together with VA and VSOs, the Committee will create a comprehensive public health approach to address veteran suicide.

 

“We need a holistic approach to the public health crisis of veteran suicide,” said Chairman Mark Takano. “If we’re going to make a dent in this crisis, we need to examine every angle, factor, and intersection that leads to suicide itself. That means adopting an evidenced-based model to ensure we are addressing factors from housing insecurity to emergency mental health care access to facility infrastructure, all of which can affect a veteran in crisis.  By realigning our focus under a proven framework, the Committee believes we can achieve smart, meaningful change that will reduce veteran suicide.”

 

The Committee’s organizing framework will work to achieve seven goals: strengthen economic supports, strengthen access & delivery of care, create protective environments, promote connectedness, teach coping and problem-solving skills, identify and support people at risk, and lessen harms & prevent future risks for all veterans -- not just those already in VA care. 

 

As part of this effort, Chairman Takano has directed this Committee to hold hearings, roundtables, briefings, and produce legislation aligned to these seven core objectives.

 

Already this year, the Committee has held two hearings that focus on the first goal --strengthening economic supports-- by addressing veteran hunger and housing insecurity. On Wednesday, January 29, the Committee will continue this work by examining how the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) ensures veterans in crisis are getting the help they need, and the extent to which VHA facilities are adhering to policies related to suicide. In addition, the Committee has engaged with VA to get more data to truly understand the population that is most affected by this crisis, so we can take a targeted approach to help the veterans that need it most.

 

Background: After 3 suicides on VA campuses in just 5 days last April, Chairman Takano made suicide prevention the Committee’s number one legislative priority. In August, after a damning VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report detailing a veteran suicide within an inpatient unit of a VA hospital, Chairman Takano called for a VA-wide stand down to address this crisis and ensure all VA staff are fully trained; assess facility infrastructure; and identify gaps in policies, procedures and resources. Still, there is more work to be done. According to VA’s most recent data (currently available through 2017), 20 veterans and servicemembers die by suicide every day. This is why the Committee is working to ensure VHA and all of VA are focused on developing a comprehensive approach to reducing veteran suicide.

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Miguel Salazar