Tucson VA focuses resource fair on suicide prevention

Tucson VA focuses resource fair on suicide prevention

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's estimated 22 veterans take their own lives every day.

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in Tucson is trying to raise awareness about the problem before it's too late.

The VA said it's trying to get the word out that there is help available.

Nationally, there is ongoing research to help prevent suicide, according to the Tucson VA.

That's for all veterans, even those who don't qualify for VA benefits.

The VA said it can match those veterans with services in the community.

In addition, the VA is expanding a 24/7 crisis hotline that's open to all veterans, and to family and their friends who are trying to help a veteran.

The number is 1-800-273-8255.

Veterans can have a confidential chat on the website or they can text to 838255.

With the veteran's permission, their local VA is contacted.

"Then we can help follow up with them and address whatever the issues may be that they're struggling with. So we do end up helping veterans who are not eligible for VA care to work with," said Tucson VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator Dan Cook.

The VA also wants to get the word out that it's is more than a hospital.

The organization held a Veterans Resource Fair on Wednesday, one of a series of continuing events the Tucson VA holds to help veterans know what resources and services are available for them.

There's even a mobile Veteran Center that can take services out to rural areas.

Veterans who went to the fair Wednesday were looking for a variety of services from housing and caregiving, to employment.

"Care of people and also on the housing repairs and different things," said U.S. Army Veteran Leroy Brown who went to the fair.

His wife, Judith, agreed.

"I was more interested in the caretaker information which I picked up quite a few brochures on and I picked up the thing about the home repair," she said.

U.S. Air Force veteran Joyce Ferris has an apartment, thanks to a federal program called HUD/VASH (Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing).

"And all the programs they have for like chemical dependency, alcoholism, all of that, it's there for us when we need it. They help us out in every way. They've helped me out tremendously," Ferris said.

The City of Tucson and the VA have set a deadline to end veterans homelessness in Tucson by the end of this year.

That ongoing program was featured at the Veterans Resource Fair as well.

The VA has vouchers for veterans who qualify for a home.

It said it can refer ineligible veterans to community organizations.

One hurdle is the veterans themselves, who may not ask for help because they think others deserve it more than they do.

"A lot of times they come in. They don't think they're worthy of it. It's just kind of that - put others before yourself - and we have to work with them and tell them you do deserve this. You've earned this and you're just as important as the next person," said VA Rehabilitation Programs Clinical Director Jodi Frederick.

"It's a new beginning for me and so I'm making my changes and I'm pushing forward. Everything's coming slowly but surely, so hoping I get back to where I was," said U.S. Navy Veteran Garris Dickson.

Others attended the fair to find out about resources they can offer to veterans.

"I run a food bank in Tucson on Fort Lowell and Country Club and a lot of homeless vets come there. So I wanted some information to give them," said U.S. Army Veteran Saundra Lewis.

The VA said all veterans should take advantage of help from the VA, even if they don't qualify for VA benefits.

Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.