“Together With Hill Country Veterans” announces the roll-out of a program to strengthen local support for area veterans. The purpose of the newly formed 501(c)3 tax exempt organization is to enlist rural veterans and their local partners to join forces to reduce veteran suicide in their community. 

TWHCV operates from an office at the Hill Country Veterans Center, 411 Meadowview Lane, in Kerrville.  

Suicide is a major public health problem that disproportionately impacts veterans living in rural communities. Suicide is also preventable — and preventing veteran suicide is the top clinical priority of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). The VA Suicide Data Report of June, 2018, revealed that 2015 suicide rates among U.S. veterans were 2.1 times higher than suicide rates among non-veteran adults.

The VA has adopted the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide 2018-2028. The National Strategy is a comprehensive public health and community-based approach which emphasizes involvement of veterans and family members. The VA seeks to collaborate with partners and communities to use the best available information and practices to support all veterans.

The program utilizes following six suicide prevention best practices: promote connectedness and help seeking, improve communication across veteran-serving programs, promote lethal means safety, provide individual suicide prevention training, enhance primary care suicide prevention, and enhance behavioral health suicide prevention.

TWHCV is sponsoring an online virtual suicide prevention training session at no cost to local participants. The topics covered in the training included how to recognize someone at risk for suicide, knowledge of intervention skills, and how to refer someone to life-saving help.

TWHCV is governed by a board of directors composed of veterans and community leaders. Principals include Michael Oats, chairman of the board; Susan Becmer, executive director; and James Myers, chief operating officer.  The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and may be reached by calling 315-5012.

Together With Veterans is funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health and supported by the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. It is managed by the Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center for Suicide Prevention and implemented via partnership with Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, local veterans and their community partners.

Veterans with immediate need for help are encouraged to contact the Veteran Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255, option 1. Contact may also be made through text message to 838255 or by internet messaging at VeteransCrisisLine.net/chat.

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