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Federal veteran suicide prevention group focuses on rural America

Federal veteran suicide prevention group focuses on rural America
Federal veteran suicide prevention group focuses on rural America(KCRG)
Published: Oct. 15, 2019 at 9:41 PM CDT
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President Donald Trump’s new task force, President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, met for the first time to discuss how to tackle veteran suicide.

The Trump administration announced the federal task force made up of several agencies earlier this year. One of the top priorities Veterans Administration Secretary Robert Wilkie said he would face head-on is rural healthcare.

“I don’t think anyone can spend a year in a high danger area and come back and be the same person,” Dave Lewis, chairperson of Healing at English River Outfitters, said.

Lewis and his organization, HERO, work to try and incorporate around 400 veterans annually back into normal society. That includes the issue of mental health, which can be tough to approach.

“We often look at each other and say, ‘how are we going to get on top of this issue?'" Lewis said. “It’s just too big for the current structure that is here to support.”

A veteran himself, it is an issue he knows all too well.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted the help,” Lewis said. “That’s something we see in a lot of veterans we work with.”

The effort to reach rural areas has been a focus.

“We’re expanding things like telehealth, we are expanding mobile veteran centers with this budget the President has given us,” Wilkie said. “51% of veterans live in rural areas.”

It’s the kind of effort Lewis and HERO are striving for, but said people also need to be more aware of the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Brain health is something that has been overlooked for far too long,” Lewis said.

HERO will be holding a 22-mile awareness walk on November 2. The money raised will go towards veterans participating in actives at HERO.