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The fight to reduce and then eliminate veteran suicides occurs on the local level. All of the good intentions, research, and promise of psychedelic medicines do not do much if at-risk veterans are not identified and helped. In this regard, 2023 veteran suicide prevention grants through the Veterans Administration are vitally important. In March the VA announced $52.5 million in grants to be handled by the Veteran Administration Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program.

What Are the 2023 Veteran Suicide Prevention Grants?

Grants funded by this effort aim to coordinate local level suicide prevention services. These services include screening for mental health issues among veterans, peer support services, delivery of clinical services in emergencies, funding for case management, and both identifying and reaching out to veterans at risk. Applications were solicited and are being processed. Grants will be made by the end of September 2023 and monies will be available for fiscal year 2024.

What Are the Priorities for 2023 Veteran Suicide Prevention Grants?

The new grants fall into two broad categories. First of all, organizations that received previous grants and have produced positive results will receive continued funding. Second, new organizations will be added to those receiving funding based on a set of criteria such as service to rural or tribal areas, areas that are medically underserved, areas with high percentages of female veterans or minority veterans, and any area with a demonstrated need based on its number of calls to a veterans crisis line.

What Are the Priorities for 2023 Veteran Suicide Prevention Grants?

All Veteran Suicide Prevention Is Local

Governments and agencies like the Veteran Administration can provide treatment for veteran suicide but nothing is of any use unless the veteran is connected to people who can and will help. Social isolation is a major risk factor for veteran suicide. Isolated veterans who are depressed, suffering from PTSD, or have substance abuse issues need help dealing with their problems before these risk factors result in a suicide attempt. For this happen, individuals need to reach out to veterans in need, local organizations need to identify those at risk. Only then can help be available for those in need. All of this happens in the communities where veterans live. All of this happens with person to person interactions. To help create and maintain the connections between at risk veterans and support services, such organizations need funding and it needs to be sufficient and reliable. In other words, when a program is up and running and making a difference in its community, its funding needs to be continued.

All Veteran Suicide Prevention Is Local

Aren’t Psychedelic Medicines Helping Prevent Veteran Suicide?

The psychedelic medicine MDMA is undergoing FDA trials for treatment of PSTD which is a major risk factor for veteran suicide. It will probably be OKed for use as a legal treatment of PTSD within the year. There are two issues here. First, the medicine is currently only being used in research settings and is not available to the public. Second, no matter how effective MDMA will be in treating PTSD and thus reducing the risk of veteran suicide, it will not help a veteran who isolates himself or herself, who refuses treatment, or who has no idea that this sort of help is available. This is where community organizations come into play. They are the point of contact to mental health services, social support, help finding a job, and ways to increase social contacts and a healthy transition from military to civilian life. When these medicines are available outside of research centers and when every veteran at risk has access to them, we expect it will make a measurable difference in the rate of veteran suicides. Until then the focus on helping local organizations find and maintain contact with those at risk is important and is helped by things like 2023 veteran suicide prevention grants.

What Works and What Does Not Work for Veteran Suicide Prevention?

Although all contacts and access to treatment are local, organizations like the VA are able to analyze data and help determine where the problems lie in connecting veterans at risk to the necessary services. Issues like accuracy of state death certificates in identifying rates of suicide are critical for efficient allocation of funds. However, it is at the local level that organizations commonly have the best handle on what works and what doesn’t. Again, here is where the 2023 veteran suicide prevention grants are important.

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