Historically Nevada has had one of the highest rates of suicide in the country with veterans suicide estimated to be 20% of Nevadan’s suicides, according to the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention.
To combat the high suicide rate among veterans, Kim Donahue, the Suicide and Homelessness Prevention Program Manager presented information to the Humboldt County Commission about the services offered for veterans and their families. Donahue leads the Truckee Meadows Mayor’s Challenge Team, in partnership with 36 different agencies to tackle the issue of veteran suicide.
Donahue said the Mayor’s Challenge was started in 2017 by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The goal is to reduce suicides among service members, veterans and their families using a public health approach to suicide prevention. The Veterans Administration and SAMHSA invited seven cities to participate in the program. Las Vegas was chosen as one of the cities to participate in the challenge.
The Truckee Meadows Team was formed later to address suicide prevention in northern Nevada. This group consists of state, federal, and military members but it also includes the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and local community agencies. Of the Indian Colony, Donahue said, “To my knowledge, my team is the only team in the nation that currently and actively has a Native American representation at a national level.”
The Truckee Meadows Mayor’s Challenge Team joins other participants in the program from Clarksville, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Suffolk County, New York, and Tulsa, Oklahoma for the 2019 challenge.
Donahue urged the Commission to take up the challenge, saying, “Suicide is not going to be solved by one agency. It's going to take all of us — our state, federal and civilian organizations — at the table to really tackle our suicide rates … I would love for the Humboldt County Commissioners and the community of Winnemucca to please accept our Mayor's Challenge and to see how we can collaboratively work together.”
In a separate email, Donahue laid out the commitments a participant would have to engage in. These would include “providing leadership support and collaboratively working with the team, as well as promoting and implementing the action plans developed by the team to communities within Humboldt county. Additionally, the Truckee Meadows Mayor’s Challenge Team meets monthly and the Commission is being asked to participate in those monthly meetings by either calling in or attending the meetings in person in order to keep up-to-date on the teams’ priorities and actions.”
Donahoe said the goal is to “bring awareness, connectivity and collaboration across the entire state as we move closer to anticipating the Governor’s Challenge invitation.” The Governor’s Challenge began this year with ten states formally invited to participate in the challenge, of which seven accepted, to include, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Texas and Virginia. “The Governor’s Challenge would ensure the work that has been accomplished in the southern and northern portions of the state will be consistently spread and implemented across the entire state and changes will be made at a systematic level,” Donahoe said.
Commission Chairman said he supports Donahue and her team’s efforts as it is a worthy cause. He asked County Manager Dave Mendiola to pursue further information and to bring it back before the Commission in a future meeting.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.