News Article Details

Huntington VA focuses on suicide prevention

The Herald-Dispatch - 3/14/2018

HUNTINGTON - In line with the top five initiatives as put forth by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Huntington VA Medical Center is working hard to reduce suicide in the veteran population.

While all the employees at the medical center are vigilant for signs of crisis and suicidal ideation, two staff members have embraced the initiative: Julie Brawn, MSW, LICSW, who is hands on with case management of flagged veterans, and Deanna Stump, MSW, MPA, LISW-S, who oversees the administrative tasks and the Veterans Crisis Line.

Both are social workers who work in the Mental Health program at the medical center.

Brawn and Stump go beyond their normal duty hours and responsibilities. Brawn runs the internal Employee Assistance Program, and Stump runs the social work intern program. On top of that, they collaborate with community organizations and partners who have contact with veterans, provide suicide prevention material, encourage veterans to enroll at VA and increase awareness about the Veterans Crisis Line and suicide prevention.

Their major focus in suicide prevention right now is community partnerships. Of the approximately 20 veteran suicides per day, about 14 to15 of those are veterans who are not in the VA system.

Brawn and Stump conduct multiple outreach and training events each month in the community. They encourage community partners to also be aware of suicide prevention needs of veterans and to reach out to veterans who are not in the VA system.

In addition to organizations like Marshall University, Hospice of Huntington, Ohio University Southern campus, WV State Police, Big Sandy Prison, the National Guard, training and outreach is community-centric and veteran-centric, bringing education and awareness to places where veterans frequent: vet centers, hunting and fishing shows, veterans service organizations and local gun shops.

Suicide prevention is one of the VA's top five priorities.

"We can all agree that one veteran suicide is one too many," said Brian Nimmo, the director of the Huntington VA Medical Center. "We are offering preventive training to veterans' organizations and community groups, providing them with crisis line cards and other information that can help save lives."

Brawn said that rather than waiting for patients to identify themselves, they look for signs.

"We send a personal postcard to every veteran flagged for suicide," she said. "We follow up on all consults from the national Veterans Crisis Line, we have intense case management and enhanced care of all veterans flagged as high risk."

Stump said they also track all hospitalizations for suicidal ideation and ensure follow-up and re-assessment after discharge.

"We also make sure there are three attempts to reach any high-risk veteran who no shows to an appointment," she said.

VA is embracing at-risk veterans with a new initiative developed in collaboration with other regional VA sites of care to implement family engagement for those veterans.

"Number One is to keep our veterans safe from harm," Nimmo said. "I have great confidence in Ms. Brawn and Ms. Stump. They are passionate about what they do and about caring for veterans."

The Veterans Crisis Line is staffed with professionals who are trained to deal with veterans in crisis. Last year, the national VA crisis line received 240,000 calls. To contact the Veterans Crisis Line call 800-273-8255, then press 1.

About the Huntington VA Medical Center

ADDRESS OF MAIN CAMPUS: 1540 Spring Valley Drive, Huntington, WV 25704

PHONE NUMBER: 304-429-6741 or toll free 1-800-827-8244





MEDICAL AREAS OF FOCUS: Acute medical and surgical inpatient services as well as primary care, mental health and specialty care outpatient services

OTHER CAMPUSES/CLINICS: Charleston, Prestonsburg, Ky., Lenore, W.Va., Gallipolis, Ohio, Community Resource and Referral Center, Huntington.


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