In April 2017, Senator John McCain formally introduced the Arizona “Be Connected” campaign at the 2017 Statewide Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona. Since then, Be Connected has grown to be the largest state and federal Veteran-oriented collaboration in Arizona, building upon the Arizona Coalition for Military Families.
A unique feature to Arizona’s approach on the “Be Connected” campaign is that it brings together key stakeholders from across different sectors (military, government, community) to focus on suicide prevention and intervention. Arizona is building upon the existing capacity found in the community by layering on additional levels of coordination and support.
On May 19, 2019, the first Be Connected team came together for the 12th annual Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon. The Historic Half is a 13.1 mile race that weaves its way through downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia.
The team of four was led by the Veterans Experience Office’s Christopher Olson; Sergeant C. Olson, USMC; Peter Reich, Son and Son-in-Law to three Army and Navy Veterans; and Logan Gregory, whose son is currently serving in the Navy.
“It’s a humbling experience to know that I am able to be a part of this in some way,” said Peter Reich, after crossing the finish line.
The risk of suicide in Arizona is three times higher among Veterans than non-Veterans, and four times higher among aging Veterans. Be Connected was created in response to the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act of 2015, and in 2018, Arizona was one of seven states to accept the “Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families.”
The Governors Challenge is a nationwide initiative sponsored by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Its goal is to end suicide among Service members, Veterans and their Families by using a comprehensive public health approach.
Arizona assembled its Governors Challenge State Team in December 2018 with members from three VA Medical Centers, the VBA Arizona Regional Office, the Arizona Department of Veterans Services, and with leaders from State Departmental, local business and industry, and Arizona’s Military Veteran Community Network boards.
The result of the hard work and collaboration has been the development of a refined, comprehensive Statewide Action Plan. Dubbed “the Be Connected Roadshow,” it is scheduled to kick off in August 2019 by bringing Be Connected information, training, and partnership opportunities to a host of Arizona cities and towns.
For organizations interested in becoming site partners, or Veterans and family members interested in learning more about Be Connected, visit the website at www.beconnectedaz.org. Help is available 24/7 at 1-866-4AZ-VETS (1-866-429-8387) or at the National Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, option 1.