Los Angeles County next week will launch its Veteran Suicide Review Team (VSRT), a collaborative effort between county, federal and private agencies to reduce veteran suicide.
The county’s Department of Mental Health will lead the project, working closely with the county’s Military and Veteran Affairs Department, the Medical Examiner/Coroner, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to collect data, analyze veteran suicides, and identify gaps in service to enhance support structures.
The core team participating in the monthly reviews consists of multiple county agencies, VA VISN 22 and associated VA medical centers, FBI, CalVet, and suicide-specific veteran community organizations who will work together to review data brought in from each of these departments to best identify trends to shape future strategy.
The LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the pilot program based on recommendations of a study released last year. The study revealed a 16% increase in veteran suicide from 2017 to 2018 in Los Angeles County. Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion, which was adopted in February 2022.
“Creating this team of experts to take a deep look at what can be done to mitigate veteran suicides is extremely important,” Barger said. “The county has a big role to play when it comes to providing support services and being a resource for our veterans. I’m looking forward to hearing what the review team finds, and their actionable recommendations. It’s imperative that we step up to serve our veteran community and provide them with a security net so they can thrive.”
“It is a tragic fact that the incidence of veteran suicide continues to rise,” said Kuehl. “It is critical that we do more to understand this phenomenon so we can better meet the needs of veterans who have mental health issues and prevent these tragic deaths. This effort will inform future policy and programming changes so we can successfully reduce the number of veterans who take their own lives.”
“The Veteran Suicide Review Team is an important step on the path to end veteran suicide in Los Angeles County,” said Dr. Lisa H. Wong, Acting Director of Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. “Working with our co-chairs for this pilot program—the Office of Violence and Prevention, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Desert Pacific-Healthcare Network and Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner—we will have the facts and essential data to identify trends that will inform countywide strategies for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.”
Jim Zenner, Director of the LA County Department of Military & Veterans Affairs and co-creator of the VSRT, said, “The Veteran Suicide Review Team will not only lead to an understanding of the surrounding circumstances of our veterans lost to suicide and the collection accurate data, it will arm our departments with knowledge we can use to more effectively target our resources to disrupt veteran suicide in our county.”
[Information via news release from Los Angeles County.]