Andrews Center creates task force to address veteran suicide prevention in East Texas

Friday was the first meeting for the Andrews Center Veteran Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:27 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Friday was the first meeting for the Andrews Center Veteran Suicide Prevention Task Force, where different resources from all across East Texas collaborated on the topic of suicide as the trend increases.

According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, active-duty military suicide numbers increased from 75 in the first quarter of 2022 to 94 in the first quarter of 2023.

“The State of Texas has the number one veteran population. That’s huge. And then, East Texas itself is number two in the entire state, so how do we cater to that? And then, to have so many different organizations around the table who are willing to say, ‘Yes, I want to serve,’” said Andrews Center Executive Assistant Stephanie Wallace.

Jeff Hurley, with the Andrews Center Veteran Peer Network, said more resources are needed to target this specific demographic as more veterans populate East Texas. “Part of that is going to be, let’s use what we already have. Let’s use assets, resources that we have, and make sure they’re put in the right places. But, secondly is to say, how can we be creative? How can we maybe even step outside our thinking box and become a little unorthodox to meet the demand?”

A major topic of the meeting was the compact act, which allows qualifying veterans to receive suicide crisis care. With that act, they created an action item to reach out to medical examiners and find out when there is a veteran suicide.

“Then we move on to, well, how do we get information to the people who are actually providing the service? We’re going to be sending out the VA phone number to our local hospitals, to our local behavioral health agencies, for billing purposes and making sure they know how to reach out and really use the compact act,” said Wallace.

Their next goal is to get more people involved that touch the veteran community and focus on the whole crisis process, even after intervention.

The suicide prevention line is 9-8-8. The next meeting will be on Dec. 7 at the Andrews Center, starting at 11 a.m.