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UCHealth launches program to help reduce veteran suicide in El Paso County

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO)-- UCHealth has been chosen to lead a grant-funded veteran suicide prevention program in El Paso County. The program is called 'Next Chapter' and can serve up to 700 veterans and their family members per year at no cost. The program is in partnership with the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration.

In 2021, the Colorado State Legislature passed the Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot Program aimed at specifically addressing the issue of veteran suicide in El Paso County.

According to a recent report from the El Paso County Coroner, 176people died by suicide in 2021, and 30% of those people were veterans.

"We’ve known for a long time that the risk of suicide amongst veterans is pretty high, but in the last three years, on average one veteran a week takes their own lives," said Damien Mccabe, the director of behavioral health and military affairs at UCHealth.

Mccabe is helping launch Next Chapter. He says UCHealth is working with community partners like Mt. Carmel and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"It is a program where we are able to help veterans and their family members access behavioral health care and collateral social service support or occupational support, maybe food or housing or financial support that is funded through a state grant," Mccabe said.

Mccabe added that the program is approaching the issue in an innovative way. It recognizes that the veteran community is hard to reach when it comes to healthcare and wellness, and is hoping these services will provide relief.

"If 30% of those suicides are in one population of people, you have to turn your resources to it, you have to understand that problem, and you have to get innovative in the way we provide services," Mccabe said.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can visit the Next Chapter website or call 1-888-719-VETS.

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Jessica Gruenling

Jessica is a reporter for Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about her here.

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