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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Mayor's Challenge to Prevent Veteran Suicide

Medical Center Director Francisco Vazquez and Mental Health Care Line Executive Dr. Laura Marsh spoke to media following the City of Houston Mayor's Challenge press conference.

Medical Center Director Francisco Vazquez and Mental Health Care Line Executive Dr. Laura Marsh spoke to media following the City of Houston Mayor's Challenge press conference.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Houston VA is working closely with the City of Houston and other local agencies to increase suicide awareness and prevention support for Veterans, servicemembers and their families. This effort is part of a nationwide Mayor's Challenge where we join City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and local active military and Veterans organizations to end Veteran suicide.

Houston was one of the original seven cities to participate in the challenge organized by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

During a recent press conference, Mayor Turner discussed the challenge. “Partnerships between our local community, government, and non-profit agencies will allow us to reach Houston area Veterans where they live, work, and thrive,” said Mayor Turner. “We want to expand the conversation around suicide and reduce stigma for mental health and suicide.”

Using a public health approach, the Houston Mayor’s Challenge team has developed multiple new and innovative strategies to prevent suicide in service members, Veterans, and their families.

  • The Harris Center and the Houston VA now have a hand-off system between the two agencies to assist with the care of veterans.
  • A network of communication between local hospitals and the VA to assist with veteran care is being built.
  • The Houston Police Department and Houston Fire Department are better able to identify suicidal behavior and will begin referring people to ensure follow up care is offered.
  • The Houston Health Department is working with hospitals and the Houston VA to enhance care coordination for veterans who are discharged after suicide attempts.

“An estimated 300,000 Veterans live in the Houston-area. We all have a role to play in preventing suicide, especially when it comes to those who have served our country with duty, honor, and courage,” Mayor Turner said. “I’m proud of my Veterans Affairs Office for accepting the Mayor’s Challenge and joining with vital on-the-ground local agencies to address the epidemic of Veteran suicide.”

“Preventing Veteran suicide is the highest clinical priority at the VA and we are committed to bringing as many resources as possible to bear to solve this issue here in Houston,” said Frank Vazquez, Houston VA medical center director.

  • The Houston VA opened a brand-new building for outpatient mental health earlier this year. 
  • We offer a robust marriage and family therapy program and have hired eight licensed marriage and family therapist to assist Veterans and their families. 
  • We have hired more than 100 new front-line mental health providers, including psychologist, social workers, psychiatrists, and more over the last year.
  • Houston VA has embedded mental health professionals in our primary clinics to reach Veterans where they are, and we are embedding more and more in our specialty clinics like cardiology and women’s health.
  • We have vigorously trained our staff of over 5,400 on how to recognize and assist Veterans in crisis across our VA.
  • We have six full time suicide prevention coordinators who work tirelessly to follow up on calls from the Veterans Crisis Line and assist Veterans in crisis. 
  • We offer same day mental health care for veterans in crisis at our main medical center and any of our nine community based outpatient clinics

“Suicide is a complex issue with no one single cause. It is a national public health issue that affects people from all walks of life, not just Veterans. But just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end Veteran suicide alone,” Vazquez said. “The Houston VA is proud to be a part of the Houston Mayor’s Challenge, working with the amazing people here today and all members of our Houston community to put an end to Veteran suicide.”

The Houston Mayors Challenge is a partnership between the City of Houston Police, Fire, Health, and Veterans affairs departments; the Houston VA; Texas Health and Human Services Commission; the Harris Center, Counsel on Recovery, Combined Arms, and other local agencies.

“Working together, we can end Veteran suicide. We know that treatment works, and that recovery is possible,” said Vazquez. “Please help us spread the word. Houston VA is here for our Veterans. We offer our Veterans high quality health care delivered in a Veteran-centric manner, with a sense of urgency. We want all Veterans to know that we are ready and able to serve them here in Houston.”

For more information on Houston VA’s mental health services, visit https://www.houston.va.gov/services/Mental_Health.asp

For more information on VA’s suicide prevention campaign, visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/bethere.

For information on SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/suicide-prevention/samhsas-efforts.

Veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide — and those who know a Veteran in crisis — should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255.

 

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