Marion, IL VA Medical Center raises awareness on suicide prevent - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Marion, IL VA Medical Center raises awareness on suicide prevention

MARION, IL (KFVS) - A new piece of legislation passed the Senate on Tuesday, February 3, called the Clay Hunt Veterans Suicide Prevention Act.

It aims to improve mental health care and make suicide prevention resources available to veterans.

The Act is named after Clay Hunt, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, later committing suicide in 2011.

At the Marion VA Medical Center, they are taking steps to make sure any cry for help is not going unnoticed.

“We are kind of a team that looks for those that might fall through the cracks,” Supervisor of the center's suicide prevention program, Dale Horaz said.

At the center, case managers work together to provide outreach programs to veterans and their families.

“Once we're able to identify somebody that's high risk for suicide you know we can follow them, we can get them hooked up to the medical services that they need,” Horaz said.

A crisis hotline is available for veterans. Once a veteran is identified as high risk for suicide, he or she is quickly put into an aggressive mental health program.

“They need to be seen weekly for four weeks,” Horaz said. “We have them on our focus point for about 90 days. In that time, we decide if they need individual therapy, group therapy, if they need to see a prescriber for medication.”

Veteran Mike Gunter, who served in the Vietnam War, say programs like the ones at the VA Medical Center, are ones he wished he had available when he first came home.

“We had nobody to turn to,” Gunter said. “We came home one or two at a time and often times no one in our community had been.”

For the past several years VA Medical Center has offered a peer support group where veterans speak with other veterans about what they've went through.

“They know some of the things that these war veterans have experienced and I think that's very important,” Horaz said.

Gunter said he has a message for any veterans who may be going be going through a difficult time.

“They are our future, and I'm going to tell them that things are going to be different,” Gunter said. “They need to understand, they are no longer in Iraq or Afghanistan…they're here in the United States and they've got people they can turn to.”

The VA Medical Center is partnering up with Team Red White and Blue, which helps veterans by connecting their community with through social and physical activity.

They will be hosting a run/walk for people of all ages to talk about suicide prevention.

This event will be free and open to the public. It will be Saturday, March 28, at 10 a.m. 

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