National Veteran Suicide Task Force Modeled After Arizona Efforts

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2019 - 10:41am
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 6:27am
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President Donald Trump announced an executive task force Tuesday that will address veteran suicide.

The national effort will help agencies share resources, and its program is modeled after one in Arizona.

On average, 20 veterans die by suicide each day. In 2010 the Arizona National Guard reported its highest rate of suicide ever but 36 months later, the number dropped to zero.

“It can be done,” said Thomas Winkel, with the Arizona Coalition for Military Families.

Winkel helped oversee a program that coordinated resources between agencies and nonprofits and said said the bureaucratic process wastes millions of dollars and makes resources difficult to access.

“There needs to be a sense of coordination and collaboration unlike what we have today and unlike what we’ve had in the past,” he said.

The Arizona veteran suicide helpline received over one thousand calls in January.

Colonel Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services, said while that number is shocking, it's a good sign that veterans are reaching out for help.

“The need is there,” she said. “It shows that program is, I believe, successful in getting the right resources to the right people at the right time.”

About 70 percent of veterans who die by suicide had little or no contact with a federal program, according to the White House announcement.  

There is still work to do in Arizona, as the Phoenix VA recently received one out of five stars in it’s end of fiscal year rating.

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