Veterans have more access to suicide prevention services

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 3:35 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - If a Veteran were to experience an emergency suicide episode, he or she could come to the VA Hospital in Reno. But there may be some barriers--at least in the Veteran’s mind.

He or she may not be enrolled in the health care system. Or he may have no transportation to get help. Or the Veteran may prefer to go elsewhere for treatment.

“Think about someone who is in crisis,” says Matt Kerr, Suicide Prevention Program Manager at the Reno VA Hospital. “The thought processes don’t always work the way we would like them to. But it allows people to compound the problem. I can’t do that because it’s going to cost me money. I can’t do this because I can’t get there.”

Enter the “Comprehensive Prevention Access to Care and Treatment Act.”

A big title for a piece of federal legislation that allows Veterans who are experiencing suicidal thoughts to seek care within the VA health care system or outside of that system.

Either way, the treatment will be paid for by the VA. That payment will also include transportation to the medical care to help deal with the emergency crisis.

“A lot of folks think, you know it’s the VA it is a government agency it is going to take a lot for me to get to that place,” says Kerr. “The good thing is, the Compact Act allows for, just let us know you are a Veteran as soon as possible. And I think that speaks more to those who seek care at a community facility or something like that. Just tell us, as soon as you can. We are going to work in the background on all of those things.”

Kerr says by eliminating barriers, either actual or perceived, Veterans can seek help when suicide is top of mind.

“We just want you to know, we care about you. Your life does mean something, and you are valuable,” says Kerr.

Emergency Medical Care - Community Care (va.gov)

Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for free emergency health care