The Impact of Technology: Text Messaging to Prevent Suicide Among Young Veterans


 

 

 

Izzy Abbass, Commander of VFW Post 1, is a regular guest blogger for Warrior Gateway.

 

 

Unfortunately, we still lose over 18 Veterans a day to suicide across the US.  Some of these men and women are still wearing the uniform; others have been out for a short time or possibly many years.  However, one thing is common in all cases – easily accessible help may have led to a different outcome.

The Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Veterans Crisis Line four and a half years ago to help curb this epidemic.  The Crisis Line is a 1-800 number with trained counselors available 24 hours a day.  They are now up to over 1,000 calls per day and average 25 rescues a day – a rescue is when they dispatch 911 services to a veteran’s location to save a life.  This is a great service which is having significant impact within our veteran community.  But, how do we more effectively reach younger veterans?

In November, the VA took a bold step to do just that – reach younger veterans through the technology they use – mobile phones.  On November 3rd, a text help line went live connecting veterans to the same counselors via text messaging.   Knowing that the under 30 veteran did not grow up with 1-800 numbers and that they are far more likely to text than to place a phone call, this was seen as a natural next step.

By texting to 838255, veterans receive an automatic text letting them know they’ve connected to the Crisis Center and asking if they are in immediate danger.  At the same time, an alert is sent to the VA Crisis Center and an operator takes control of the discussion through a computer interface.  It is basically instant messaging via text.  This is all completely confidential and there is no cost for the text messages to or from the number which was built by CrossLink Media in San Antonio, Texas.

Since launch, the number of contacts through the text line has grown steadily with over 900 veterans reaching out via text since launch and more than 300 in February alone.  This represents over 30,000 text messages going back and forth.  One reason for its popularity is the confidential nature of texting.  Unlike a phone call which can be overheard, texting can be done with other people around and in fact a number of vets have remarked that they are using the service so they do not wake up their family members.

The goal of the counselors is to still get the veteran on the phone with a counselor and then get them into treatment.  However, since in some cases the veteran does not feel like talking or won’t because of those around them, the text help line serves as a much needed lifeline to these men and women.

While no one believes that this alone will end veteran suicides, it is one more tool that is making an impact.  If you find yourself feeling lost and with thoughts of taking drastic action, reach out to the dedicated men and women who want to help.  Text to 838255 – it can be a single word, a question or just the word help and someone who cares will be there anytime you need them.

 

Izzy Abbass

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/izzyabbass

 

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Warrior Gateway Announces the G.I. Network: A Nation of Support. One Network

VETERANS TO BENEFIT FROM PARTNERSHIP AND INNOVATION BETWEEN NON-PROFITS, GOVERNMENT

Washington, DC – Today, Warrior Gateway announces the G.I. Network: A Nation of Support. One Network, the largest free network available designed to connect hundreds of thousands government programs and vetted non-profits, with the millions of veterans in the US.

Available in January 2012, the G.I. Network will connect veterans and their families with more than 220,000 government and non-profit organizations as well as with each other.  The G.I. Network has been piloted over the last year with several Warrior Gateway non-profit and government partners to provide a collection of free tools and services to help veterans and military families find and connect with education, employment, health and wellness programs.

“Warrior Gateway has a history of providing innovative technology solutions designed to help veterans and their families,” said Devin B. Holmes, CEO of Warrior Gateway.  “Veterans tell us that there are too many disconnected resource websites.  The G.I. Network is the game changer that solves this problem.  It provides a solution to network all those resource websites and help people connect in a meaningful way.  Developed in response to the Joining Forces initiative, the G.I. Network helps each of us connect with veterans and their families in our communities.”

The G.I. Network will launch in January 2012. For more information about participating and to be notified of the public launch, please visit: www.GINetwork.org.

About G.I. Network: A Nation of Support. One Network.: Publicly launching January 2012, the G.I. Network connects hundreds of thousands non-profits and government programs as well as millions of veterans under one network.  A program of Warrior Gateway, the G.I. Network harnesses state-of-the art technology to create the largest free network for today’s veterans to connect in their local community.

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Warrior Gateway Featured Resource At “2nd Annual Wounded Warrior Hiring and Support Conference”

The Warrior Gateway team is proud to be a featured resource at the “2nd Annual Wounded Warrior Hiring and Support Conference” on November 9-10, 2011, in Vienna, Virginia.  As we approach Veterans Day, we are reminded of our commitment to those who have served our Nation and are looking for employment opportunities in both the public and private sector. In recognizing this, the Department of the Navy is hosting the 2nd Annual Wounded Warrior Hiring and Support Conference “Hiring our Nation’s Heroes.”

Goal:

To convene prominent government, military, and industry leaders and their human resource professionals who are committed to hiring and supporting Wounded Warriors. Conference attendees will have the unique opportunity to learn best practices from many successful organizations on how to recruit, hire, train and retain Wounded Warriors.

On the Agenda:
There is an AMAZING line-up of distinguished guest speakers including senior leadership in the federal government, private industry, Wounded Warrior care agencies, and hiring programs that will share their best practices. Our conference will boast OVER 20 BREAK-OUT SESSIONS to offer you their TOOLS and RESOURCES on how to hire and support Wounded Warriors. There will also be EXHIBITORS from various agencies and organizations that support our Wounded Warriors.

Fees:
THE CONFERENCE IS ENTIRELY FREE.  Plenty of free parking is available. You may purchase food and beverages on-site.

Register:
To register, please go to the following website and received the latest conference updates: http://www.public.navy.mil/donaa/Pages/woundedwarrior.aspx

Date:
November 9 – 10, 2011

Location:
Sheraton Premiere at Tyson’s Corner, 8661 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA.

More Information:
Please contact the Conference Management Team at nssc_wwarriorhiring@navy.mil

Please forward this email to anyone who may interested in attending our event.

Warrior Gateway & Pin-Ups For Vets Auctioning Off 2012 VW Beetle

“21st Century Calendar Girl Auctions Off 21st Century Beetle To Support Veterans”

Los Angeles, CA – Pin-Ups For Vets and Warrior Gateway have joined forces to raise money for hospitalized Veterans by auctioning off a 2012 VW Beetle given away during Oprah’s final “Favorite Things” show. Inspired by the romance of bygone eras, especially the 1940’s, Gina Elise the 21st Century pin-up girl draws inspiration from the World War II pin-up girls, whose photos and paintings boosted moral for service members fighting overseas.

Starting at 9am PDT on October 17th, interested supporters can bid on the 2012 VW Beetle on eBay Auction.

All proceeds from the sale will be donated to Pin-Ups For Vets, a California registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, that works to improve the quality of life for hospitalized Veterans across the U.S.A. The highest bidder will also get an autographed copy of the 2012 Pin-Ups For Vets calendar in addition to bringing home this special 2012 VW Beetle with a special boxed gift key from Oprah’s “Favorite Things” show.

“We are honored that Pin-Ups For Vets has asked us to join this auction to raise funds for our Veterans” said Devin B. Holmes, CEO of Warrior Gateway. “From providing funding for equipment for spinal cord injury patients in Salt Lake City to supporting the Armed Services YMCA in San Diego, Gina is an example of how one person can impact the Veterans community and is role model for all those who want to know how to give back.”

“I am excited to partner with Warrior Gateway” said Gina Elise, Founder and CEO of Pin-Ups For Vets. “Veterans and their families need better ways to find and connect with support organizations in their local community and Warrior Gateway provides this valuable and free service for them. Our partnership showshow community collaboration is one of the cornerstones to successfully changing how Veterans are supported.”

About Pin-Ups For Vets: Gina Elise, Founder and CEO, has been dubbed the “Calendar Angel”and “The Betty Grable for a new generation” by today’s active duty service members. She is the creator and model in the “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendar fundraiser that supports America’s hospitalized Veterans and recovering troops. In addition to raising funds to support Veterans’ healthcare programs, Gina has made countless personal bedside visits to ill and injured patients in VA and military hospitals across the U.S. and the globe, where she delivers her nostalgic pin-up calendars and posters that are donated by the public. Gina’s nostalgic pin-up calendar draws attention to Veterans’ healthcare, while at the same time honoring the four-year military service of her late grandfather. In 2009, The “Los Angeles Business Journal” and its members honored Gina Elise as “VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR” at their annual “Women Making A Difference”awards ceremony. Pin-Ups For Vets has donated $50,000 to date to expand physical, cognitive, and occupational rehabilitation programs for V.A. and Military hospitals nationwide. Visit the website, www.pinupsforvets.com.

About Warrior Gateway: Founded in 2009, Warrior Gateway connects individuals in the military community with organizations and programs (non-profit, government, educational or employment-related) in their neighborhood that are there to support them. Led by CEO, Devin B.Holmes, Warrior Gateway harnesses state-of-the art technology and community collaboration to help today’s Veterans make better decisions about what service providers they can go to for help, and have a public forum to share their experiences about the quality and effectiveness of those services. This innovation was recognized when Federal Computer Week honored Devin B.Holmes with a Federal 100 award for significant contributions to the Federal IT community. For more information, please visit: www.warriorgateway.org.

New VA bill established to assist post-9/11 veteran caregivers could fall short

On 5 May 2010 President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, Public Law 111-163. The bill, first of its kind, intends to provide direct assistance to veteran families. However, recent press releases indicate that the bill is in distress. Many articles are quick to fault the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) after the organization missed the 31 January 2011 deadline to start carrying out provisions of the bill, and before that, the 1 November 2010 implementation plan milestone. The VA signed the long-awaited implementation plan on Wednesday 9 February, but the contents of that bill may be falling short of its mark. For instance, only about 10 percent of the intended post-9/11 caregiver population (est. 850) are said to be eligible for assistance.

New benefits – restricted to caregivers of the critically wounded and seriously ill of the post-9/11 veterans – outlined by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, include: monthly stipend (based on the average home healthcare costs in the veterans hometown), health care coverage, travel expenses (including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care), respite care, and mental health services/counseling.

Among those supporting the bill are the following political figures:

  • Sen. Daniel Akaka (HI)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Chairwoman, Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Jeff Miller (FL), Chairman, House Committee on Veteran Affairs

While some of the enhancements are currently available, many will require an issuance of regulations, whereas others will remain unavailable. To date, the VA has given no timeline as to when the services will be available to caregivers. However, under the law, the VA must report to Congress within 2 years about the possibilities of providing the enhanced benefits to all post-9/11 caregivers.

The Warrior Gateway can assist those that are affected by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 by providing veteran caregivers a place to find assistance services located in their hometown. The free-of-charge Warrior Gateway directory currently has over 100 caregiver assistance organizations available for veterans of all eras.

Please feel free to post comments about this blog and suggest other topics you would like to see covered by the Warrior Gateway Government Relations Blog.