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Monday, November 11, 2013

New Hampshire-unique program logs no suicides in seven years of vet outreach

While an average of nearly 20 veterans commit suicide per day across the United States, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, none of the 2,315 service members in New Hampshire’s Care Coordination Program have taken their own life.

Col. Paul Loiselle, of the New Hampshire National Guard’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, oversees the Deployment Cycle Support – Care Coordination Program, now in its seventh year. It is the only program of its kind in the nation and was developed after the National Guard became fully operationalized as a result of the War on Terrorism. ...

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While an average of nearly 20 veterans commit suicide per day across the United States, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, none of the 2,315 service members in New Hampshire’s Care Coordination Program have taken their own life.

Col. Paul Loiselle, of the New Hampshire National Guard’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, oversees the Deployment Cycle Support – Care Coordination Program, now in its seventh year. It is the only program of its kind in the nation and was developed after the National Guard became fully operationalized as a result of the War on Terrorism.

Loiselle called the military’s former support structure “woefully inadequate” and said the program, aimed toward steering service members through their service, was funded seven years ago with grants from the Department of Defense.

“We hired degreed social workers,” Lioselle said. “Instead of being reactive, we decided to make a very proactive program.

The Deployment Cycle Support – Care Coordination Program begins reaching out to service members a year before they are to be deployed. Loiselle said the purpose of early contact with service members is for social workers to familiarize themselves with intricate details that might contribute to stresses with a service member later on.

“Service members are very proud,” Lioselle said. “So most of them don’t want to ask for help.”

Lioselle said the service members meet with program employees at a place of the service member’s choosing to discuss issues at home and issues in their personal lives which may be difficult to navigate through.

“We find out what’s going on in a specific family and how we can help,” Lioselle said. “We also help families try to cope with the service member’s deployment.”

Lioselle added that the same resources available to New Hampshire guardsmen and women through the Care Coordination Program are also available to their families.

Service-member outreach with the program does not stop when a soldier returns from war either. For 12 months after a soldier returns from battle, the Deployment Cycle Support – Care Coordination Program will track the soldier’s progress, or lack thereof.

“So much of the success is about building relationships,” Lioselle said.

According to the most recent numbers available from the program, which were provided to The Telegraph by the New Hampshire National Guard, Care Coordinators successfully intervened in three instances of “significant suicide risk among (program) participants this year.”

That data, which cites statistics from July 1 to Sept. 30 of this year, also shows that 34 patients in the program were diagnosed and treated for a previously undetected mental health issue.

“Some folks are very independent and that’s great,” Lioselle said. “But we’re there if they need help.”

Lioselle called the service’s suicide problem an “epidemic” and “a most critical issue facing our military.”

He said the New Hampshire-unique program focuses on four aspects primarily: suicide prevention, finding veteran employment, finding homes for veterans and providing access to health care.

According to Lioselle, the Deployment Cycle Support – Care Coordination Program is also available for service members outside the 12-month window.

As for whether or not other states will adopt New Hampshire’s program, Lioselle didn’t know for sure but said, “I think a lot of states are so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to start.”

Between July 1 and Sept. 30, the care coordination program took 284 cases and assisted a total of 476 individuals, many of them the relatives and family members of active duty service members at a cost of only $700 per case.

Bradford Randall can be reached at 594-6557 or bhrandall@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Randall on Twitter (@telegraph_brad).