White House outlines goals of PREVENTS task force to stop veterans' suicides

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June 17 (UPI) -- The White House outlined priorities on Wednesday for an executive effort that's intended to reduce the suicide rate among military veterans.

White House officials detailed President Donald Trump's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, task force, which was part of an executive order last year. It's primary goal is to unite government agencies and non-profit organizations on the issue.

Trump will elaborate on the effort at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in the Rose Garden of the White House. The briefing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EDT.

In a conference call with reporters, White House officials outlined nine priorities and 10 recommendations for the PREVENTS task force.

"This is the first nationally-focused effort on suicide," one senior White House official said. "The executive order was written intentionally as an aspirational effort. We can prevent suicides. In order to get there, we have to do a lot of things."

The administration stressed, however, that the work is needed at the community level rather than the federal level. Officials said the task force's recommendations will be "anchored" though community partnerships.

A summit a year ago convened more than 100 researchers, clinicians and decision-makers to discuss research and public health solutions to stop veteran suicides.

"We need to be able to support the good work that's already being done," the administration official added during Wednesday's call. "We are looking at, over this next year, what is currently available at the government across agencies."

The task force is working with Congress and advocates to pinpoint the gaps in the veteran suicide safety net and determine how to fill those vacancies. One significant boost, officials said, will come from changing the culture about mental health issues.

The White House said a planned national campaign will help bring about that change.

"Veterans live in our society and in our workplace. We need to reach those veterans who are not part of the VA to make sure our messaging is coordinated."

Other recommendations include prioritizing public research, developing non-profit partnerships, getting employers involved in best practices and training and identifying effective community-based models.

The PREVENTS task force also hopes to strike a balance between veterans and the use of firearms in suicides, the officials said, as some fear their weapon will be taken away if they report a mental health issue.

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