The New Mexico Department of Veterans Services (DVS) has accepted an invitation to take part in the Veteran Suicide Safe Messaging and Social Media Conference on July 11-12 in Washington, D.C.
The conference is presented by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in conjunction with a nationwide Mayor’s Challenge dealing with the prevention of suicide among military active-serve members, veterans, and their family members.
A DVS representative, along with representatives from the city of Albuquerque and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office, will engage with mental health experts and public affairs professionals from across the nation to develop better ways of identifying and reaching out to service members, veterans, or their family members who are at risk of taking their own lives.
According to the latest VA data, 22 veterans nationwide take their own life every day—or one every 65-minutes. The New Mexico contingent will take lessons learned from the conference back to their agencies here in New Mexico—with the goal of strengthening veteran suicide outreach not only in the Albuquerque metro area, but also throughout the state.
Busy Year So Far for DVS
The conference is the latest effort in what’s been a busy year by DVS and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to serve the state’s 156,000 veterans and their families.
Since January 1, DVS’ 17 certified Veterans Service Officers (VSO’s) from its 13 field offices located throughout the state have assisted 6,830 veterans with filing for or updating their federal VA or state veterans’ benefits. This has been accomplished by office visits and 608 outreach visits by VSO’s to various locations in the Albuquerque metro area—in particular, to senior centers and long-term care facilities–and to outlying rural communities throughout the state.
Additionally, the DVS Veterans Business Outreach Center has counseled 1,628 entrepreneurially-minded veterans through office visits or 78 outreach visits…with everything from starting their own business or expanding an existing veteran-owned business.
DVS has also been busy ensuring a smooth transition of management of the State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences from DVS back to the Department of Health (DOH). Earlier this year, legislators unanimously agreed with the Governor’s recommendation that DOH has the better expertise, budget, and staffing to provide the round-the-clock-care that the home’s residents require. This transition is set to take place July 1.
In April, DVS presented a Native American benefits training conference in April which certified 13 representatives from the Navajo Nation and our state’s pueblos. These newly certified individuals ensures outreach into areas where veterans have traditionally been underserved when filing for their federal VA or state veterans benefits.
Still to Come This Year
–Military Honors Training Conference– DVS will host a training conference for the volunteer Honor Guards which provide the “Final Salutes” at the burials of veterans (Aug. 23)
–Forgotten Heroes Funeral for the cremated remains of veterans who upon death were unclaimed by family members (Sep. 26)
–Albuquerque “Stand Down”-DVS representatives will provide benefits and programs assistance at this annual big outreach event for homeless veterans (Oct. 24)
–Southwest Veterans Business Conferencein Albuquerque for entrepreneurial-minded veterans from throughout the southwest (Nov. 4)
And DVS has been in negotiations with the Department of Corrections and local jails around the state to re-start benefits outreach visits by its VSO’s to help soon-to-be-released incarcerated veterans with re-establishing their suspended VA or state veterans benefits. More details about these scheduled events will be relayed by DVS in the coming months.