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County receives funds for veteran suicide awareness and prevention
Stress, difficulty coping, mental health conditions, and unaddressed issues lingering from military service put veterans at greater risk for suicide. In the United States, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. In response, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has focused special attention on raising awareness and preventing suicide by veterans.
And now local efforts have received a boost from the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. In June, Benton County was awarded $4,700 to provide additional resources to help veterans in crisis. Benton County was among 26 in the state to receive these funds.
Jennifer Moore, Community Services Program Director with Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, which is contracted to provide veterans services for Benton County, said the plan is to reach more people by partnering with Benton County Health Department, Samaritan Veterans Outreach, Oregon State University Military and Veterans Advisor, as well as the Linn County Veterans Services Office.
“We’re really looking at how we can promote and bring awareness to existing services,” Moore said.
That includes publicizing a new service that enables built-in assistants on smart phones to use voice activation to automatically dial the Veterans Crisis Line (800-273-8255) through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The first local project funded through the award will be holiday care packages with information about veterans services, including information about how to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by phone, text or online. Moore hopes to include holiday greeting cards from area school children with the packages.
“The holiday season can be an especially vulnerable time for veterans,” Moore said.
Additionally, Moore said the funds will be used to aid efforts by local social service agencies to assist veterans who are transitioning out of homelessness.
There are more than 5,300 veterans living in Benton County, according to the last Census report. But officials believe that count underestimates the actual number of veterans. Currently, only 27 percent of the veteran population is currently being served. That makes awareness and outreach work even more important.
“There are a lot of folks we haven’t talked to,” Moore said.
The office often hears from veterans who say they didn’t know they qualify or didn’t know a benefit was available to them. Veterans Services works to support claims for pension or service-connected disabilities, but there are many more benefits, including education, health care, long-term care, housing and home loan programs and emergency assistance. Moore notes they can also connect eligible Veterans with other services, such as Meals on Wheels, or other Senior & Disability Services programs.
“It’s a very large array of services,” Moore said.
Contact Veterans Services: firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-758-1595 or 777 NW Ninth St., Suite 202C, Corvallis.