New VA Suicide Prevention Program Available for Veterans

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WESLACO – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs created a new program to detect at-risk veterans before tragedy strikes.

The Recovery, Engagement and Coordination for Health Veterans Enhanced Treatment program allows VA coordinators to identify those more likely to commit suicide or become hospitalized.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS also learned a group of local veterans, Warriors United in Arms, carries the same goal to keep their military brothers and sisters alive.

Air Force veteran Tony Garcia created the group three years ago.

“Our main focus is to help veterans that are in distress. We do peer-to-peer counseling,” he said.

Garcia said they’re on a new mission to find a place further to help veterans.

“Feeling of being alone, that nobody cares for you. Nobody understands you and I can relate to that because we all up and down those lonesome Valleys,” he said.

The VA reported nearly 20 veterans die every day by suicide.

VA Suicide Prevention Program and REACH VET coordinator Nicole Theriot said they are looking for several factors including increased risk of suicide and hospitalization.

“Once a veteran is identified, we’re then notified on the healthcare system level and we reach out. That coordinator does their own review of the chart to find out the providers are who are assistant providing care for that particular veteran,” she said.

Theriot explained it will allow veterans to get extra help before getting into a crisis.

“Basically it is statistical model. The idea is to pull data points from our veterans’ medical records, and the data points essentially are looking for risk factors,” she said. “Whatever your problem might be, it’s another tool we’re going to have in our tool box to combat problems that we have.”

Theriot added they are already seeing results from the program.

The program is only for veterans in the VA health care system.

According to VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System spokesperson Hugo Martinez, there are 22,000 veterans in the Rio Grande Valley. 


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