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Lt. Gov. Gilchrist leads roundtable focusing on veteran suicide prevention

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II joined the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA), legislators and veteran-serving organizations on July 27 for a roundtable discussion on veteran and military suicide prevention.

The recently passed state budget includes $1.2 million for veteran suicide prevention efforts and $2 million for veteran homelessness grants, aiming to improve the health and well-being of Michigan’s more than 530,000 military veterans and their families.

“Our veterans are the best of us, and alongside our partners in the legislature and at the DMVA, Governor Whitmer and I are committed to achieving the goal of zero veteran suicides in Michigan,” Gilchrist said. “This is a problem we can and must make progress on together, and together, we can create space and safety where every veteran feels comfortable and confident, knowing the State of Michigan will not let them down.”

The MVAA recently launched an outreach and awareness campaign called “I Served. I Am a Veteran” to engage veterans, collect their stories and get them connected to the earned benefits and services that can help them thrive and prevent the issues that can lead to suicide.

“Everything we do to serve Michigan veterans and their families is done through the lens of preventing veteran suicide,” said MVAA Director Adam Hollier. “The MVAA is taking a collaborative, holistic approach to veteran suicide by addressing risk factors such as veteran homelessness, unemployment and combat PTSD. By partnering with our federal, state and community partners, we are determined to reach and support our struggling veterans with the appropriate care and services before a crisis can occur.”

Also attending the roundtable was U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the parent organization of the MVAA.

“The Whitmer-Gilchrist administration, our federal and state delegation and veteran service organizations continue to make veteran suicide prevention a priority,” Rogers said. “Evidence shows that the more connected veterans are to health care and other services, the lower their risk is for suicide.”

Veteran suicide remains a persistent problem. In 2020, 178 veterans died by suicide in Michigan, according to the latest available data from the VA. The veteran suicide rate of 31.1 per 100,000 people in 2020 was much higher than the suicide rate for the overall Michigan population — 17.8 per 100,000 people. From 2016-2020, 882 veterans died by suicide in Michigan, an average of 176 suicides a year.

The MVAA is the facilitating member of the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and their Families in Michigan. Through the Governor’s Challenge, more than 140 people from local, state and federal partners work together to address the factors that lead to veteran suicide in Michigan.

The team created the Michigan Veteran Connector initiative in 2021 to get hospitals, businesses and organizations that serve the public to help identify veterans. To show your support for Michigan veterans, take the pledge to ask your patients, clients, or customers if they served. Email to learn more and to become a Michigan Veteran Connector.

Images of the roundtable are available for download at: