Veterans Counseling Veterans CEO Tony Williams attended Tampa PREVENT Town Hall on 28 Jan 2020. Here is my brief takeaways. I feel it is important to report constructive comments if we really want to see change.
Background: President Trump signed an executive order called President’s Roadmap to Empower V
eterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENT) This executive order had three components: Stand up a collaborative task force, the development and implementation of a public health approach and enhanced research. On 26 Jan 2020 the Collaborative Taskforce called Establishment of the Veteran Wellness, Empowerment, and Suicide Prevention Task Force came to Tampa Florida for 3 days. The first 2 days were spent visiting Bay Pines VA and James A Haley. On 28 Jan (1-3pm) the Taskforce conducted a Town Hall like meeting. The Taskforce is led by Executive Director, Dr Barbara Van Dahlen, founder of Give An Hour.
Here is a brief After Action Report about the Townhall meeting:
- Danny Burgess, Director of Florida Department of Veteran Affairs (FDVA) was on the panel and stayed for the entire meeting (this shows commitment by the State). He provided insightful updates to what his department is doing including announcing the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis added Florida to be part of the Governor’s Challenge
- Director Burgess also explain the efforts Florida is undertaking to address Veteran suicide in Florida, including conducting a year long campaign called Forward March to identify Gaps in Veteran programs throughout the state of Florida, the hiring of a Suicide Prevention Outreach Coordinator and the creation of an APPs to help Veterans in crisis
- The inclusion of VA Faith Based initiative to address veteran suicide. Conrad Washington, acting Director of this initiative was on the panel.
2. Needs Improvement:
- Dissemination information of Town Hall meeting. Veteran Experience Office is responsible for getting the word out. They rely on the local Community Veteran Engagement Boards in getting the word out.
- Communication: The purpose of the town hall and community expectations. The purpose of the town hall is to inform the community what is going on. Executive Director Dr Dahlen explained they are on a fact finding tour, the town hall is not the primary purpose they are there. The fact finding is specifically on Bay Pines VA and James A Haley VA suicide prevention programs. This finding is closed to the public.
- Lack of Community Veteran Organizations on the panel
- Lack of Women Veteran on the Panel
- Ensure there is always a woman Veteran on panel
- Clarify purpose of Town hall. According to Executive Order, the mission of PREVENT is to gather information about Veteran Medical Centers on its suicide prevention program. It’s mission is not to empower and assist in identifying community stakeholders in the community
- Use Social Media to inform when and where PREVENT will be in the future (FB page, Twitter, etc)
- Include a local Veteran Organization on the panel