Pa. budget cut won’t hurt efforts to prevent vet suicides, general says

    With recent data showing a spike in the suicide rate among young military veterans, Pennsylvania’s National Guard commander is trying to assure state lawmakers the commonwealth’s own veterans outreach programs can withstand a funding cut.

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget would cut funding for veterans outreach services by about 13 percent, or $350,000.

    The reduction won’t put suicide prevention programs at risk, because federally funded efforts are picking up the slack, said Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, adjutant general.

    A program started about two years ago, he said, has provided training and allowed about 150 suicide-watch interventions over that time.

    Pennsylvania leans on other U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs services as well, he said.

    “They have a very successful suicide intervention hotline that has experienced in about a year 800,000 calls. It’s very well staffed,” Craig said. “Army One Source also takes care of currently serving members of the military with similar type stats.”

    Suicide rates are up nationally and statewide, according to recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports.

    But the suicide rate for veterans is still higher than for non-veterans, and a recent VA report showed a spike in the suicide rate for young men and women veterans between 2009 and 2011.

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