The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is delivering on its promise to make veteran suicide a top clinical priority. In mid-January, they announced a new policy that would provide all veterans access to free emergency mental health care, at any VA medical facility or outside clinic, regardless of whether the veteran is enrolled in the VA health system.

This is a major victory for U.S. veterans everywhere — and one that will reinforce our existing work at Nation’s Finest. We provide mental health support and, most recently, focused suicide prevention efforts, as part of our wraparound services for veterans and their families.

VA Expansion of Emergency Mental Health Care

Under the VA’s new policy, veterans in acute suicidal crisis (severe and sudden in onset) can go to any VA or non-VA medical facility for emergency mental health care at no cost. The VA will either provide free care at its own facilities or reimburse the cost of care provided by other facilities.

The new plan also includes inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not have to already be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.

About 17 veterans a day die by suicide. Of the 44,298 U.S. adults that died from suicide in 2020, 6,146 were veterans – a rate 57.3% higher than the rest of the population, according to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

We know the need for help is there. Too many of our veterans struggle with mental health problems including PTSD, moral injury, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, depression, and anxiety.

Our veteran brothers and sisters who sacrificed so much for our freedoms deserve to be taken care of in return. Their mental health is no less of a priority than their physical health. Even one veteran suicide a day is too many.

Nation’s Finest and the Staff Sergeant Fox Suicide Prevention Grant

In addition to greater access to mental health care through the VA, veterans can also access mental health support, resources, and suicide prevention services through Nation’s Finest.

Mental health care has been a core component of our work for the last 50 years, since veterans returning to America from Vietnam struggled to find the support they needed to cope with their experiences in the war.

In October 2022, the VA awarded Nation’s Finest the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant (SSG Fox SPG). We began offering suicide prevention services specific to military veterans in the Sacramento and Santa Rosa areas in January 2023, with the grant funds providing resources for outreach initiatives, mental health support, and direct referrals to local community and VA clinics.

Through the Staff Sergeant Fox grant, we also added additional staff members to our team to ensure we have the bandwidth and resources to provide quality mental health care to veterans in crisis. These additional staff include two clinical case managers and a peer support specialist.

All Nation’s Finest SSG Fox SPG staff members are closely engaged with the suicide prevention team at the local VA medical center as we work together with a shared goal of supporting veterans in their wellness and recovery.

Building a Better Future for Veterans

The new VA policy, along with the collective suicide prevention efforts of individuals and groups nationwide, is a huge step forward in the fight to help save veterans’ lives.

We’re making progress, but there’s a lot of work still to be done. Nation’s Finest is at the forefront of this fight, supporting veterans from all eras and backgrounds with the tools and resources they need to live meaningful and productive lives.

Addressing the root causes of veteran suicide is also a key focus of our work — from preventing homelessness to helping veterans find a stable job they can take pride in, recover from substance abuse, or get clinical treatment for a mental health disorder. Learn about our services that embrace a whole-person approach to veteran care.

It takes a village, and our veterans have earned our support.

If you’re interested in learning more about the suicide prevention services we offer at Nation’s Finest, please call our Santa Rosa office at 707-578-8387 or our Sacramento office at 916-393-8387. Nation’s Finest provides all services at no cost to the veteran.

Veterans experiencing an acute crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line (dial 988 then press 1, or text 838255) or visit a local VA or other medical facility for emergency care as noted above.