The number of suicide prevention staff employees by the VA doubled on Tuesday. Veteran Affairs officials have officially opened the new Atlanta office for the Veteran Crisis Line. Prior to the opening of the new site, all operations where run out of the Canandaigua VA Medical Center in New York. The number of call responders have swollen from 310 to more than 500 while the number of social service assistants grew from 43 to almost 80.
In 2016, the Veterans Crisis Line answered more than 510,000 calls, 53,000 chat requests and 15,000 texts. Despite their efforts, statistics show that approximately 20 veterans are still committing suicide every day. The VA reports that only six of those veterans are active users of VA services. VA officials hope that increasing the number of “around-the-clock” suicide prevention staff employees will draw more veterans into active use of VA services.
Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson stressed the importance of the program in a statement made to reporters:
“The work at the Veterans Crisis Line is some of the most important work we do in VA… Today we follow through on our commitment to give those who save lives every day at the Crisis Line the training, additional staff and modern call center technology they need to make the Veterans Crisis Line a gold standard operation.”
VA officials state that callers will not notice any difference in operations. The program is part of the broader MyVA initiative and will increase the likelihood of veterans being connected with specialists trained specifically for veterans issues. These specialists will also be supported by additional staff. They hope this will reduce the chances of veteran’s calls being transferred to the general National Suicide Prevention Hotline during heavy call times, where employees are not trained to respond to the needs of veterans.
Veteran Crisis Line can be reached by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and selecting option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or their families members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.