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Webinar on Preventing Suicides Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families

Register today for this June 28 webinar!

Register today for this June 28 webinar!

SAMHSA's SMVF TA Center logo

SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance Center presents:

Preventing Suicides Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families: 

Why We Need to Consider Lethal Means and What We Can Do

June 28, 2018, 2:00–4:00 p.m. ET

Join us for the first session in the Suicide Prevention Virtual Event Series focusing on strategies to prevent suicide amoung our service members, veterans, and their families (SMVF).  This series will be hosted by SAMHSA’s SMVF Technical Assistance (TA) Center, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  These sessions are designed to be both interactive and informative.

As communities develop comprehensive approaches to suicide prevention for SMVF, “means reduction” that is military culture informed is a critical component that must be considered.  Session 1 in the Strategies to Reduce Suicide Among SMVF Virtual Event Series will feature Megan McCarthy, Ph.D., who will discuss military culture-informed strategies that can be used to reduce access to lethal means, including poisoning and firearms for individuals who are at high risk of suicide.  While suicidal thoughts are most often brief and temporary, access to lethal means during times of elevated distress and risk too often translates fleeting thoughts of suicide into tragedy.  This interactive session will focus on veteran-centered approaches to lethal means safety and include examples to help participants develop an effective strategy for reducing veteran suicide.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify strategies for working collaboratively with SMVF for safe storage of firearms and medications
  • Detail successful military culture-informed strategies for working collaboratively with veterans and their loved ones to develop individualized plans for the safe storage of medications and firearms
  • Discuss available resources for veterans and families to minimize risk

Megan McCarthy, Ph.D. | Deputy Director, Suicide Prevention Programs, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. McCarthy serves as Deputy Director of the VA’s Office of Suicide Prevention.  Her work focuses on the development of VA’s comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention and on oversight of the office’s day-to-day operations.  Dr. McCarthy is also an Assistant Health Sciences Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.  She received a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University, where she studied philosophy and international relations, and a Doctor of Philosophy in psychology from the University of California Berkeley.  She completed her doctoral internship at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and a postdoctoral clinical fellowship specializing in psychotherapy for underserved communities at Harvard Medical School.

Target Audience

Representatives serving SMVF from state, territory, and tribal behavioral health systems; community health care providers; suicide prevention coordinators; mental health and addiction peers; military family coalitions and advocates.

Please note:

  • The event will be hosted on a WebEx Platform and participants are asked to test their system before the broadcast
  • The webinar archive will be made available to registrants after the webinar
  • Continuing education units are not available for this webinar

If you have any questions about your registration, please contact Philip Paty at (518) 439-7415, ext. 5272, or by email at

Mark Your Calendars for Sessions 2 and 3

Session 2 – Building a Protective Environment with Whole-Person Care, featuring Ajay Manhapra, M.D., Lead Physician, Advanced PACT Pain Clinic, Hampton VA Medical Center, Hampton, Virginia

July 18, 2018; 2:00-4:00 p.m. ET

How do care providers navigate the challenges of managing chronic pain while avoiding addiction among SMVF? What is the link between chronic pain and suicidality? What is a protective environment and how do you create one for the SMVF in your care? In this session, Dr. Manhapra will explore the importance of comprehensive whole person care in creating protective environments for veterans that reduce both addiction and suicide.

Session 3 – Acute Care Transitions: What Works, featuring Richard McKeon, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief, Suicide Prevention Branch, Division of Prevention, Traumatic Stress, and Special Programs, Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA

August 6, 2018; 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET

Research reveals that the risk for suicide attempt or death increases significantly in the 30 days immediately following discharge from Emergency Departments and inpatient psychiatric units. Dr. McKeon’s presentation will focus on improving post-discharge safety and address how crisis service system follow-ups have proven successful.

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Florida health agency collecting data on Patrick Air Force Base cancers


The Florida Department of Health is gathering data from current and former residents who are concerned their cancers may be linked to living near Patrick Air Force Base, the agency confirmed Thursday.

The agency’s interest was first posted on a Facebook community page for Satellite Beach. Residents there have been tracking the issue since the Pentagon’s issued its first-ever public report this March on the levels of water contamination at current and former military installations, including Patrick.

Since then, the number of current and former residents coming forward to say they lived on or near the base and have cancer has grown.

“The department was contacted by a concerned citizen regarding an area in Brevard County and is currently working to gather more information related to their concerns,” said Florida Department of Health spokesman Devin Galetta. The county lies on Florida’s east coast and includes Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“While this is not a formal investigation, the department does recognize the importance of gathering and assessing any information to help us determine necessary next steps,” Galetta said. “Our current goal is to continue encouraging any concerned citizens in the community to provide further information to the local county health department to aid in that assessment.”

Galetta said they put the initial concerned resident in touch with the Florida statewide cancer registry and “will work with the county health department and the state’s epidemiology division to determine any necessary next steps.”

On the community Facebook page, dozens of current or former residents wrote in with personal stories of cancer battles and questions as to what they should do next. Almost two decades ago, the community around Patrick was identified as having an unusually high rate of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, although no root cause was identified.

Sgt. Kristen Emery was an Army medic with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg when she gave birth to her daughter in 2004. Her daughter has some chromosomal abnormalities. Emery wonders if exposure at Patrick Air Force Base caused both her cancer and her daughter's health issues. (Courtesy of Kristen Emery)
Sgt. Kristen Emery was an Army medic with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg when she gave birth to her daughter in 2004. Her daughter has some chromosomal abnormalities. Emery wonders if exposure at Patrick Air Force Base caused both her cancer and her daughter’s health issues. (Courtesy of Kristen Emery)

In California, a similar Facebook support group supports former service members or family who were stationed at the now-closed George Air Force Base. Those members report an unusual number of miscarriages and cancers.

The communities’ concerns come as Congress has funded a separate, first-of-its-kind study on the long-term effects of perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOS and PFOAs, compounds that are widely used in household goods, but concentrated in the foam used to put out aircraft fires.

The congressional study will be conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), with support from the Department of Defense’s Office of Health Affairs.

The nationwide study will include an exposure assessment at “no less than eight domestic DoD installations,” said Steve Jones, DoD’s director of force readiness and health assurance policy at the office health affairs. Those results will be used in a larger, follow-on review that will include non-DoD locations as well to “better define potential health outcomes associated with [the compounds,]” Jones said. The study is expected to take seven years to complete, Jones said.

ATSDR has found that exposure to the compounds may increase risks for cancer, affect female fertility and increase the risks of birth defects, among other health risks.

DoD has been looking more closely at the compounds since 2012, when the Environmental Protection Agency first put out a requirement to test for them, said Jones.

However, DoD has used the foams containing PFOS and PFOA since the 1970s.

DoD officials have stressed that they relied on the Environmental Protection Agency to determine if the compounds were harmful. Once the 2012 EPA requirement and the agency’s subsequent 2016 recommendation on levels of exposure came out, DoD took steps to protect both on-base and off-base populations from exposure, including providing alternate drinking water and closing contaminated wells.

All of DoD’s actions to date can be found in the report they provided to Congress, which is seachable here, in a database compiled by Military Times.

VA Benefits Bulletin – June 2018

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Seal of the US Department of Veterans Affairs

VA Benefits Bulletin

June 2018

Paul Lawrence, Under Secretary for Benefits

New VA Under Secretary for Benefits Confirmed and Ready to Serve Our Veterans

“I am honored and humbled to be able to help serve our Nation’s Veterans,” remarked Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D., the new Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Benefits said.

“We are indebted to them for their sacrifices, and owe them nothing less than to ensure they get the benefits they have earned.”

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