Fresno VA, NAS Lemoore create mental health partnership for transitioning service members

Amanda Aguilar Image
Thursday, June 30, 2022
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Fresno's VA Medical Center and NAS Lemoore are working together to reduce suicides among veterans and active-duty members.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Our armed forces are facing a mental health crisis.

Fresno's VA Medical Center and NAS Lemoore are working together to reduce suicides among veterans and active-duty members.

"Whatever we've been doing isn't enough," expressed Jerry Silva, with the Fresno VA.

Sadly, veterans make up almost a quarter of suicide deaths in the United States.

"It's estimated right now we lose upwards of 18 veterans per day to suicide," said Silva, the lead suicide prevention coordinator.

However, thanks to a 2018 executive order, signed by former President Donald Trump, transitioning service members can get the mental health resources they need and deserve.

"These active duty members needed extra support. They needed extra resources once they're exiting out," Silva said. "They needed that mental health support to make sure that they stay connected for care."

At the height of the pandemic, Fresno's VA created a partnership with NAS Lemoore, where they placed a licensed clinician at the base's mental health clinic. The team is then able to see and assess duty members prior to them experiencing any suicide risk once they leave the military.

"It's evidence that the first year our military members exit out of active duty is when they're at highest risk for suicide," Silva shared.

It's been around a year-and-a-half since the partnership started, and they've served more than 1,000 duty members.

Romalene Cruz is the suicide prevention case manager based at the naval air station, and said it's made a huge difference -- as many members leave and are nervous about the transition.

"I feel that it has really helped them in feeling a little less anxious by knowing who they can contact to if they need it when they get out," she said.

The two agencies hope to receive more assistance in the future, as the need for mental health resources continues to grow.