New Suicide-Prevention Option Drew 50K Veterans Last Year

VA initiative offers free emergency suicide-prevention aid to veterans, ex-service members
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2024 5:55 PM CST
New Suicide-Prevention Option Drew 50K Veterans Last Year
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/e-crow)

An emergency suicide-prevention initiative launched last year by the Department of Veterans Affairs has resonated with its target audience. The agency announced Wednesday that so far, almost 50,000 veterans and other ex-service members have made use of the program. The benefit allows those eligible to go to any VA- or even non-VA health clinic for assistance during dangerously dark moments, without being charged for the visit. That care could encompass anything from a trip to the emergency room and transportation costs, to more extensive care, including up to 30 days of inpatient or crisis residential care, as well as up to 90 days of outpatient care.

All a person has to do in the moment if they show up at the ER is explain they're covered under the VA policy; if they later receive a bill, they would call the VA's customer service department to nix the charges. There've been financial pluses of the program, too: The agency notes it has saved more than $64 million in health care costs since the program was implemented. The Hill notes that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among US veterans under the age of 45, and that there were nearly 6,400 veteran deaths by suicide in total in 2021.

CBS News cites a 2021 study that found since 9/11, there've been more than 30,000 veterans from various conflicts who've taken their own lives—more than four times the number of service members who died in those actual conflicts. "There is nothing more important to [the] VA than preventing veteran suicide—and this expansion of no-cost care has likely saved thousands of lives this year," VA chief Denis McDonough says in a statement. "We want all veterans to know they can get the care they need, when they need it, no matter where they are." If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. (More veterans stories.)

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