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VA provides free emergency suicide support to 50K, El Paso offers help

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) — Right now, a veteran in crisis can walk into any health care facility for suicide support anywhere in the country at no cost, regardless of the facility's Veterans Administration status. This program is now over a year old, born out of the VA's "top clinical priority" of stopping veteran suicides.

In that year, nearly 50,000 veterans have engaged this program nationwide. A recent VA statement shows these were both veterans and former service members, who were covered for emergency room visits, inpatient/crisis residential care for 30 days or outpatient for 90.

A noteworthy part of the program is that veterans do not have to be enrolled with the VA system, or specifically visit a VA facility, to take advantage of this program option. In total, the VA estimates more than $64 million dollars in health care costs were covered by the program last year, and it also includes coverage for transportation to facilities.

"Ending Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a key part of President Biden’s Unity Agenda," according to the VA. They say their work in suicide prevention includes expanded support for veterans through the 988 suicide & crisis hotline, partnering with local community groups and launching a national campaign targeted at veterans with messages of positivity and support.

The VA has also been involved in firearm and medication suicide prevention plans, including options for storage and for families supporting a veteran with mental health challenges. The program is also available for veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma.

"Any Veteran – enrolled in VA or not – can go to a VA or non-VA emergency room for no cost emergent suicidal care under this policy," the VA said in a statement. "Additionally, this benefit covers certain individuals who do not meet the requirements to be considered a Veteran, including those who were released from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable."

VA Secretary Denis McDonough has said he believes this expansion and "no-cost care has likely saved thousands of lives." He hopes veterans know they can get care when and how they need it, regardless of their physical location.

These support options are also open to service members, including reservists and national guard personnel, who spent at least 100 days of active duty under combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation.

To use the benefit, a veteran should notify the ER or medical personnel that they are covered. Then, the medical facility should contact the VA by phone at 844-724-7842 (TTY: 711) or by using the VA’s Emergency Care Reporting (ECR) portal.

Details on the coverage under the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act per the VA:

  • Emergent suicide care provided by, paid for, or reimbursed by VA.
  • Expanded access and eligibility (Individuals do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit).
  • Assurance that they will not be responsible for costs associated with emergency suicide care, including emergency transportation.
  • Referral for appropriate VA programs and benefits they may be eligible for following the period of emergent suicide care.


If you need support, help is close by:

  • 988: The National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - Anyone can contact the Crisis line through phone, text or message any time, for any mental distress.
  • EHN Crisis Hotline: (915-779-1800) - Staffed by locals, and a constant resource in El Paso, Emergence Health Network's hotline has specialists ready to hear you out.
  • Emergence Health - EHN is able to offer many different forms of support for mental health and wellness. From therapy to addiction treatment.
  • NAMI El Paso - As part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are some options listed on their website for support and connection. NAMI is focused on providing support to anyone with any sort of mental illness.

Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.

Article Topic Follows: Be Mindful

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Avery Martinez


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