This sheds light on the pervasiveness of suicide among veterans in the United States and the need for initiatives similar to a statewide community-based program in Arizona that has led the way in addressing this crisis. While federal, state, and local governments are all expected to align suicide prevention efforts, people hope to also galvanize health care stakeholders into acknowledging and actively participating in upstream interventions. In this way, everyone is able to offer veterans and their families something far more meaningful than simply a passing thanks for their service.
One such state-based intervention that is also serving as a national model is the Arizona “Be Connected” initiative, an upstream suicide prevention program for service members, veterans, and family members in Arizona. The initiative is led by the Arizona Coalition for Military Families (ACMF), a nationally recognized public/private partnership focused on building Arizona’s capacity to care for, serve, and support service members, veterans, their families, and communities.
In 2010, the Arizona National Guard was experiencing the highest rates of suicide in its recorded history. In collaboration with the Adjutant General and numerous stakeholders across the state, the ACMF led the development of a program specifically for the 8,000-member Arizona National Guard called “Be Resilient.” This initiative focused on reducing stigma and shifting military culture related to suicide and mental health through training provided to all Arizona National Guard members on resilience, suicide prevention, and recognizing stress levels. This comprehensive effort reduced suicide among Arizona National Guard members to zero during the three years of operation. Following passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act in 2015 and with the advocacy of the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Arizona would go on to be selected as a pilot site to test new approaches for preventing veteran suicide through VA and community partnership. Thanks largely to the success of Be Resilient, the Be Connected initiative was launched in 2017.
Be Connected is often described as a suicide prevention program that’s not focused only on suicide. The unique component of the Be Connected program, the upstream intervention model, focuses on providing resources across all social determinants of health before an individual reaches the point of a mental health crisis. Similar to a care coordination model, Be Connected helps its clients navigate the complex health and social services systems to connect them to the resources they need. Service members, veterans, and their families across Arizona can access Be Connected by meeting with a resource navigator in-person, calling a 24/7 support line, or matching to resources on a web platform. The program has partnered with hundreds of organizations statewide to vet more than 1,200 resources to provide a wide range of services through a single, centralized platform. Nationally recognized through the Mayors’ and Governors’ Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their Families, hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the VA, the Be Connected model is an exemplar for working toward health equity for the US military and veteran community.
Population: Veterans, Veteran Families.
Links to Resource:
- Learn more about the Arizona “Be Connected” Initiative for Veterans.
- Learn more about the Arizona Coalition for Military Families.
- Read the article Serving Those Who Serve: Upstream Intervention And The Uphill Battle Of Veteran Suicide Prevention In The US on Health Affairs.
- Check out the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report by the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.