Pilot Program Seeks Immediate Help for Suicidal Veterans
It's a grim number: As many as 22 veterans kill themselves each day in America. But now, vets in need of help with their suicidal thoughts may soon find the Veterans Administration a lot more responsive to their needs.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) said many who previously called the VA for help languished on hold, or worse, were told to call back in an hour.
"That is the last thing that they need to happen," LoBiondo said. "Sadly and disgracefully, up to this point, very, very poor handling of these situations."
At the urging of a local Marine veteran, LoBiondo and the rest of New Jersey's congressional delegation have convinced the Veterans Administration to be ready with help immediately on the other end of the phone.
"A local veteran and veterans' advocate, Joe Griffies, brought this to my attention some time ago from the Philadelphia VA perspective of how veterans, who may be struggling when they are dealing with suicidal tendencies -- and make the move to dial the phone -- make the phone call, only to be put on hold, sometimes having to call back," LoBiondo said. "We were able to coalesce the entire delegation behind us."
LoBiondo said he was surprised this was accomplished without even having to resort to some kind of enabling legislation.
"When a vet calls, they press one button and they are connected to a live counselor, if they have suicidal tendencies," he said.
The program is called "Press 1, Save 1." It's still technically a pilot program, but it is up and running in Philadelphia and East Orange and will hopefully spread nationwide.
"Sometimes that bothers me, because it means that a pilot program could be discontinued," LoBiondo said. "But I think that this will be the lead-in for a permanent program that will be nationwide. I believe that the pilot program will tell the VA, in no uncertain terms, that this is extremely worthwhile and should be expanded."