November is National Veterans and Military Families Month, a time to honor the service and sacrifice of our service members, Veterans, and their families (SMVF). In recognition of Veterans and Military Families Month, PRA is honored to spotlight the SMVF Technical Assistance (TA) Center’s impactful work in reducing suicide among SMVF.

In 2018, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), launched the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among SMVF (Governor’s Challenge), a national effort engaging states to implement suicide prevention policies and best practices for SMVF using a public-health approach. The SMVF TA Center was tasked with coordinating all TA components of the Governor’s Challenge, to great success.

2020 Governor's Challenge States

Participating Governor’s Challenge States

As of September 2020, the SMVF TA Center has engaged 27 states in the Governor’s Challenge through a four-phase Policy Academy process (preparation, planning, implementation, and follow-up and collaboration). As part of this process, engaged states develop strategic plans that advance VA’s National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and incorporate evidence-based strategies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices. Participating states have centered their strategic plans around three priorities:

  1. Identify SMVF and screen for suicide risk
  2. Promote connectedness and improve care transitions
  3. Increase lethal means safety and safety planning

Carrying out their mission, participating states have established robust, military and civilian cross-system teams committed to reducing suicide among SMVF. Key accomplishments from participating teams include implementing universal screening standards for military connection and suicide risk, identifying critical data elements to measure the outcomes of their efforts, and strengthening the crisis continuum of care.

In Fiscal Year 2020, 4 Governor’s Challenge states piloted a community expansion model in 6 communities, localizing the statewide strategic plan for maximum community efficacy. In Fiscal Year 2021, the SMVF TA Center hopes to engage 8 new states in the Governor’s Challenge to continue to advance the goals of reducing suicide among SMVF.

Join us in celebrating the accomplishments of the SMVF TA Center and the participating states and communities in helping to save the lives of those who have served.