In yet another example of “sending the wrong message,” the Pentagon is curtailing funding for Vets4Warriors which operates a highly regarded Veteran suicide hotline. According to a New York Times article published yesterday, Keita Franklin, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, announced that suicide counseling previously offered by Vets4Warriors will now be taken over by another help line, Military OneSource, “which has more services available.” Ms. Franklin goes on to say that:
“It will still be peer to peer, 24 hours a day, but with more services we can connect callers with,” Ms. Franklin said of Military OneSource (1-800-342-9647), which will take over calls from active-duty troops next month. “Imagine a call center where if you need family support or financial support services, we have that all right there.”
Now, I am not an expert in suicide prevention, but I suspect that dismantling a reasonably successful suicide hotline for Veterans in exchange for what appears to be a supermarket of Veteran services is not going to reduce suicide rates. Mind you, the VA has not proven to be particularly effective at providing meaningful treatment for Veterans suffering PTSD and other ailments.
While I am hopeful that Ms. Franklin will be proven right in the long-run, past history suggests that “Big Brother’s” approach to providing meaningful treatment alternatives to Veterans suffering from PTSD has not proven to be very successful. More importantly, big bureaucracies operating under such grandiose names as Military OneSource are generally not very nimble at adjusting their programs to the needs of individual veterans or endorsing new treatment alternatives. In fact, Military OneSource sounds more like a supermarket than a place where a high-risk Veteran would seek out companionship of a fellow Veteran to work through a particular problem.
Veteran Suicide Rate Still Stands at 22 a Day
In is hard to image that Veteran suicide rates still remain at 22 a day, which is exactly the same number when the US Army released its Suicide Prevention Report some 5 years ago.
Will the consolidation of suicide prevention hot line services under Military OneSource stem the tide? I think not. In fact, most Veterans are vitally concerned about the privacy of their conversations and to convince them to share their problems and concerns with “Big Brother” is probably the last thing they would want to do. I am stunned that this “privacy” consideration did not deter the bureaucracy from taken a second-look at what appears to be a rush decision to bring third-party services under Big Brother’s umbrella.
While budgetary concerns are most certainly important, SFTT is not convinced that this consolidation effort seems thought out well, particularly where it concerns getting Veterans at “high risk” the treatment they both deserve and need.