20 September 2023- The Department of Veterans Affairs announced several critical steps forward on its Veteran suicide prevention initiatives, including $52.5 million in new Veteran suicide prevention grants, a new set of Veteran suicide prevention public service announcements (PSA), and — for the first time — statistics on the impact of VA’s new program offering free emergency medical care to Veterans in acute suicidal crisis at any VA or non-VA health care facility. Specifically, more than 32,000 Veterans in acute suicidal crisis have received free emergency health care under the new, life-saving VA policy.
“There is nothing more important to VA than preventing Veteran suicide — nothing,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “One Veteran suicide is one too many, and VA will continue to use every tool at our disposal to prevent these tragedies and save Veterans’ lives.”
- VA awards $52.5 million in Veteran suicide prevention grants: Today,VA announced that it is granting more than $52 million to 80 community-based organizations in 43 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and American Samoa as a part of the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program. These grants will help these organizations provide or coordinate the provision of suicide prevention services for eligible Veterans and their families. For more information and the list of awardees, visit the SSG Fox SPGP website.
- More than 32,000 Veterans in suicidal crisis have gotten free emergency health care under new VA program: Since Jan. 17, 2023, Veterans in acute suicidal crisis have been able to go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Thus far, this expansion of care has helped prevent Veteran suicide by providing no cost care to 32,469 Veterans in times of crisis.
- VA launches new Veteran suicide prevention PSAs: This month, VA and the Ad Council releasednew PSAs as part of the ongoing national campaign, “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.” These include one set of PSAs directed by Academy Award–winning film director and screenwriter Kathryn Bigelow, and another PSA featuring Metallica – both of which encourage Veterans to visit VA.gov/REACH to get the support they need. Since the initial launch of the “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.” Campaign in October 2021, the campaign has reached more than 7.9 million Veterans and resulted in more than 3.5 million visits to VA.gov/REACH.
- Shortened Veterans Crisis Line number passes 1 million calls, texts, and chats: Since the launch of “Dial 988 then press 1” as the shortened Veterans Crisis Line number in July 2022, the crisis line has fielded more than 1.1 million contacts. This includes over 953,000 calls, an increase of 12.1% from the same timeframe from the previous year, with an average speed to answer of 9.48 seconds. There was also a year-over-year increase in text messages (58.1%) and online chats received (10%). This increase in contacts is evidence that the hotline is working —Veterans in crisis are getting the help they need at the moment they need it.
- All 50 states and 5 territories are now participating in the Governor’s Challenge to prevent Veteran suicide: All 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S Virgin Islands have officially joined the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their Families. In a coordinated effort to implement the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, each state and territory has developed a strategic action plan focused on suicide prevention.
- VA is now working with 1,500+ community-based coalitions to end Veteran suicide: More than 1,500 local community coalitions are now working with VA to help prevent Veteran suicide. This initiative now reaches more than 11 million Veterans nationwide.
The 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report showed that Veteran suicides decreased from 2019 to 2020 (the most recent year for which we have data) and fewer Veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006. VA will release the 2023 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report later this Fall.
As a part of President Biden’s Unity Agenda and the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive plan to reduce military and Veteran suicide, VA has announced or continued several additional efforts to end Veteran suicide. In addition to the policies outlined above, VA has also awarded $20 million through Mission Daybreak, a grand challenge aimed at developing innovations to reduce Veteran suicides; conducted an ongoing public outreach effort on firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety; and more.