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Veterans Outreach Center staffs up, focuses on suicide prevention

Veterans Outreach Center
The Rochester Veterans Outreach Center is focusing on suicide prevention in September.

Rochester’s Veterans Outreach Center has hired new staff and is stepping up its efforts to prevent suicides, executive director Laura Stradley said.

The center will find ways to connect veterans to a variety of health care and career services, even if they show no immediate signs of mental distress, said Stradley.

Some veterans end up disconnected from local or federal agencies, like the Department of Veterans Affairs, that are designed to support them, Stradley said.

“The risk for suicide increases tremendously when veterans are not connected to VA health care,” she said. “And I think one of the reasons is probably pretty obvious: If they’re not connected to VA health care, they may not be getting any mental health care at all.”

Stradley says not getting that mental health care has predictable outcomes. Suicide rates among veterans have increased more than 25% between 2005 and 2017.

“The issue of suicide is not new, but it does seem to keep growing, and it’s growing out of control,” she said.

Hiring and training new staff to recognize signs of a crisis helps the local Veterans Outreach Center match veterans with more and better services, Stradley said.

The federal Veterans Administration also has 24-7 crisis counseling available by phone, text and online chat.