Expanding Suicide Prevention Resources for Veterans in Western New York
December 9, 2022
For nearly two decades, suicide rates rose among both veterans and civilians in the United States.
Although New York State has seen relatively lower rates of suicide compared with national rates, veterans in in the State die by suicide at nearly twice the rate of civilians. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) created the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which uses approaches such as reducing access to lethal means, increasing social connectivity, and expanding access to mental health treatment to address the veteran suicide crisis. The latest available data show a stabilization in suicide rates between 2018 and 2020, but recent trends in the general population suggest that progress may be fragile. In 2022, NYHealth awarded Veterans One-stop Center of WNY (VOC) a grant to increase outreach and expand access to suicide prevention services across 12 counties in Western New York, a region with more than 11,000 veterans and some of the highest veteran suicide rates in the State.
Under this grant, VOC will build strategic partnerships with new stakeholders in Steuben, Livingston, Yates, and Ontario counties, including veteran service officers, elected officials, suicide prevention coordinators, leaders in tribal communities, veterans service organizations, and health care providers. Digital, print, and social media ads will be provided to the four counties to raise awareness of VOC’s presence in new service areas. VOC will also collect and analyze demographic data to understand the impact of expanded services and assess the best ways to reach and serve veterans that are part of high-risk groups, including women, Native American, and younger veterans. It will host community events to share information about available coordinated services, as well as assist eligible veterans with accessing VA health care and other related benefits such as supportive housing, education assistance, and disability compensation. VOC will also monitor other measures to assess program effectiveness, including numbers of outreach activities, veterans engaged, veterans screened for suicide risk, and veterans connected to services.