Clay addresses veteran suicides

BCC may join NE Florida group to fight crisis


CLAY COUNTY – The Board of County Commissioners are looking to team up with Duval, Baker, Nassau and St. Johns counties in an effort to curb veteran suicide rates in northeast Florida and get veterans the services they need.

Commissioner Gavin Rollins said he believes this consortium will be especially helpful in light of a field that’s either focused on an individual or doesn’t target specific communities at the federal level. That focused targeting is what Rollins said the veterans in Clay County need right now.

“The goal of this is to do two things. One, to take data of what is happening in terms of suicide rates in our community and then track the progress after some of these programs are implemented,” he said.

Rollins said the alliance would consist of a number of programs including crisis hotlines, peer-to-peer mentoring, accountability groups and more to engage veterans publicly and privately however they see fit. The goal, according to Rollins, is to use the data to apply for Veterans Administration grants to curb veteran suicides.

“If we can use a pilot program like this and show it works, then there’s potential that it could spread across the nation,” Rollins said.

This consortium would include a veteran or representative of the community from each county, as well as a veteran liaison who would work with other veterans.

The financial cost has not been determined, but Duval County has already committed $75,000. Rollins said the BCC shouldn’t commit its money until it knows how and where it will be spent.

Brig. Gen. Michael P. Fleming helping the project get off the ground.

“This is a cross-county effort and we’re very fortunate in northeast Florida in that we work very cohesively together but one of the challenges is how do we attack it collectively and over the long term,” Fleming said. “There are a lot of people doing a lot of hard work on behalf of veterans for a lot of issues including this suicide prevention, but what this fire watch council will do is put it all together and help us move forward.”


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