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VA Connecticut Healthcare System


VA Connecticut wins national VA Community Partnership Award for Suicide Prevention

July 12, 2017

West Haven - The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration (VHA) announced that VA Connecticut Healthcare System was one of three facilities to win the 2017 VHA Community Partnership Challenge. VA Connecticut was recognized for its suicide prevention efforts which are one of VA's top clinical priorities. The challenge is an annual contest that highlights successful partnerships between VHA and nongovernmental organizations. 

Through the efforts of Christina Allen, LCSW, VA Connecticut Healthcare System is partnering with the Southwestern Connecticut Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) CHOICES program for health insurance assistance, outreach, information and referral, counseling and eligibility screening to expand the services to include veteran-specific mental health needs. 

The CHOICES program includes five Connecticut not-for-profit organizations that provide counseling on healthcare benefits and resources for older adults, but historically did not target veterans or veteran-specific resources. 

This innovative alliance capitalized on CHOICES’ trained network of volunteers to decrease isolation and foster social connectedness among this high-risk veteran population and to identify those veterans in crisis who need referral to the Veteran Crisis Line. 

The partnership focuses on suicide prevention training for community professionals, staff, and volunteers; adding routine screening for veteran status; and placement of veteran-specific resources, such as the Veterans Crisis Line number, on the CHOICES website. The location of the program volunteers in senior centers and assisted living facilities expands the outreach and screening capability, providing timely identification and intervention for veterans at risk for suicide. 

Ms. Allen is a social worker at VA Connecticut working in the Suicide Prevention Program. 

Outcomes of this partnership include ensuring front-line staff have the tools they need to assist older veterans in crisis reach an isolated population of older veterans.