Connecting on a National Stage
The Arizona Coalition for Military Families was invited to participate in a national initiative hosted by the CDC Foundation and the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. It was my honor to represent the Coalition and all of the partners who work together with us across Arizona to address the needs of our state’s more than 500,000 service members, veterans, and their families.
This event was a combination of a symposium and co-working session where the leading veteran service organizations, community partners, and government officials gathered to identify and discuss best practices in veteran suicide prevention.
Titled “Warrior Built: Strengthening the Eco-System for Veteran Suicide and Prevention,” the session offered an opportunity for me to share what has been the hallmark of our success in Arizona. In my comments, I shared the importance of having a mindset that change is possible. We know change is possible in Arizona because we saw the suicide rate among the Arizona National Guard drop to zero from 2011 to 2013 when we stood up a program to address the needs of the Guard members who were at risk of suicide. We sustained a rate of zero suicides in the Arizona National Guard for three years while the program was active. Before we engaged with the Guard, they were experiencing their highest-ever rates of suicide among their forces.
Since that time, the Coalition, through our Be Connected suicide prevention program, has had encounters to provide services, support, and resources to 50,000 of Arizona’s service members, veterans, and their families. We work collaboratively with public and private partners using a data-based approach to provide collective impact. In other words, we bring the collective force of state leaders, partner organizations, local communities, and individuals who share the mindset that we can change the fact that suicide disproportionately affects veterans.
How did we do it? How do we expand upon that model to apply it statewide, or even nationwide? That’s exactly the advice that I shared with the group of nationally-recognized colleagues during the Warrior Built session. [Comments begin at 2:46]
Source: Department of Veteran’s Affairs: 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. 2021. [Accessed: Sep 9, 2021]. Available from URL: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/2021/2021-National-Veteran-Suicide-Prevention-Annual-Report-FINAL-9-8-21.pdf
- Source: Department of Veteran’s Affairs: 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. 2021. [Accessed: Sep 9, 2021]. Available from URL: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/2021/2021-National-Veteran-Suicide-Prevention-Annual-Report-FINAL-9-8-21.pdf
- Source: SAMHSA. National Survey of Drug Use and Health: Veteran Adults [online]. 2020 [Sep 9, 2021]. Available from URL: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31103/2019NSDUH-Veteran/Veterans%202019%20NSDUH.pdf
The Arizona Coalition for Military Families serves as the backbone organization in our state for uniting and unifying the efforts of leaders, communities, employers, organizations, faith groups, communities, and caring people. The coordination, strategic planning, and coordinated entry point, through the Be Connected Support, into the Ecosystem of Support for Arizona’s service members, veterans, and their families have been proven as a model for making the best collective impact.
To that end, our work was recently highlighted on a national stage by members of the United States Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. There is no doubt that the work of supporting our veterans and service members to reduce suicide is most effective when we operate as an interconnected unit. That is why the Coalition will continue to prioritize partnerships as a path forward to build and foster strong connections among all who play a role in the Ecosystem of Support for veterans and those serving through active duty, Guard, and Reserves.
If you or someone you know needs support, connections to resources or would like to get more involved in supporting Arizona’s service members, veterans, and military families, we invite you to call our Support Line at 866-4AZ-VETS (866-429-8387).