Montana VA honors suicide-prevention teams

Posted at 11:25 AM, Sep 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-19 13:25:39-04

HELENA – The Montana VA honored the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs Mayor’s Challenge teams of Helena and Billings on Tuesday for their work in suicide prevention.

The SAMHSA and VA Mayor’s Challenge is a public health initiative that involves families peers and the community in preventing suicide among service members, veterans and their families.

Drenda Niemann of Helena and Dr. Claire Oakley of Billings were presented with certificates of appreciation by Director of the Montana VA Dr. Kathy Berger, MHA, DNP.

The certificates recognized the dedicated efforts to combating suicide at a community level and partnership with the VA.

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins was also presented with a Director’s Coin by Berger.

Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the VA Juliana Hallows believes the two teams have done a fantastic job in addressing suicide as a community issue.

“In Montana, we have one of the largest veteran populations per capita,” said Hallows, “Which is why it’s so important is that we have police departments, detectives, health departments, community mental health centers and family members that have all come together for this mayors challenge and said enough’s enough. We want to fight suicide and we want to partner to do this.”

Helena and Billings were two of only eight cities to be chosen by SAMHSA and the VA to participate in the first year of the Mayor’s Challenge.

The two teams traveled to Washington D.C. in the fall of 2017 for policy institute training, to help the members learn about best practices for suicide prevention.

-John Riley reporting for MTN News

If you or a loved one are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts please reach out to local law enforcement or call the suicide lifeline.