Idaho Legion Riders launch veteran suicide prevention program
“One more day.”
Dave Conley, an American Legion Rider and member of Lloyd E. Hutcheson Post 113 in Meridian, Idaho, hears those three words a lot when speaking with families who have lost a veteran to suicide. The conversations always center on a wish for more time to help their loved one through the feelings of hopelessness and despair.
“That became my mission in life, to give them that one more day,” Conley says.
A new program initiative by American Legion Riders of Treasure Valley, Idaho, “One More Day” aims to reduce the state’s veteran suicides by connecting Legionnaires certified in suicide intervention and prevention training with veterans identified as at-risk. When a 911 call is received, a Veteran Dispatch Team will be contacted and sent to the scene with law enforcement.
“We want as little time as possible between our notification and our arrival,” says Conley, vice chairman of the One More Day Committee. “Our ultimate goal is to be his or her advocate. Our job is to get them through the night ... one more day. Then we turn them over to a higher level of treatment,” whether that’s VA, counselors or the nearest mental health facility.
The program’s first phase includes:
• Extensive volunteer training. At least one Veteran Dispatch Team member will be certified in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). With the help of local VA suicide prevention counselors, that person will then train and certify American Legion team volunteers statewide.
“We’re there for the veteran,” says Abe Abrahamson, Department of Idaho adjutant. “We’re here to get that veteran through that crisis and to the next step of help.”
• Community buy-in. The One More Day Committee is communicating with mayors, chiefs of police and sheriffs about the program, and how volunteers and officials can work together. Conley calls the buy-in “phenomenal.”
• Access to bases. Believing suicide prevention starts before a person leaves the military, the committee wants to make contact with servicemembers at Mountain Home Air Force Base and the Idaho Army and Air National Guard prior to their transition to civilian life, Conley says.
VA Crisis Line
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and veterans, servicemembers and their loved ones can connect in confidence with VA responders 24 hours a day, seven days a week by contacting the VA's Crisis Line in the following three ways:
1. Call toll-free at (800) 273-8255 and then press 1;
2. Text the number 838255; or
3. Chat online at www.veteranscrisisline.net/chat.