WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) attended a bipartisan meeting at the White House with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to discuss his national conversation on veteran suicide. In August, Senator Tillis and Secretary Wilkie toured Eastern North Carolina and visited the Wilmington VA Clinic to talk about combatting veteran suicide.
Watch a video of Senator Tillis discussing the White House meeting here.
“Veteran suicide is a national epidemic that affects families and communities across North Carolina. Today’s discussion centered on the action items of the PREVENTS Task Force and finding ways to reach the 60 percent of veterans who take their lives who are unknown to the VA,” said Senator Tillis. “I applaud Secretary Wilkie and President Trump for prioritizing this important issue and taking steps to end it once and for all. I will continue to work with them and my Congressional colleagues to find legislative solutions and approaches to find those veterans who are not a part of the VA system, wherever they are, so they can get the help they need and deserve, in a setting most comfortable to them.”
Senator Tillis has been a leader in the fight against veteran suicide. He is a co-sponsor of the IMPROVE Wellbeing for Veterans Act introduced earlier this year that creates a new grant program to enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct additional outreach through veteran-serving non-profits in addition to state and local organizations. Senator Tillis also co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to combat the high rate of suicide among members of the National Guard and Reserve.
In 2015, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, co-sponsored by Senator Tillis, was signed into law. The legislation directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct annual evaluations of the Department’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs to gauge their effectiveness and make any necessary improvements or changes.
The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) is focused on a holistic, public health approach to suicide prevention. It serves to improve Veterans’ quality of life and lower the suicide rate. PREVENTS is developing a national Roadmap to change the culture surrounding mental health and suicide prevention through enhanced community integration, prioritized research activities, and implementation strategies that emphasize improved overall health and well-being.
President Trump signed Executive Order 13861: PREVENTS on March 5, 2019, establishing this three-year effort. The Roadmap will be submitted for approval by March 5, 2020. After submission, the Task Force will assist with implementation and progress until March 2022.
To date, the PREVENTS office has engaged stakeholder groups across sectors, building upon the critical success of suicide prevention pioneers and agencies working with servicemembers and Veterans. The relationships cultivated with agency experts, private leaders, universities, nonprofits, and more, are critical to the executive order’s success. During the first few months, the PREVENTS team has conducted meetings with Agency experts, Public and private sector thought leaders and subject matter experts, Universities and nonprofits, and many Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s).