The Illinois 98th General Assembly concerned over the growing number of veterans who are committing suicide passed House Joint Resolution 91 creating the Task Force on Veterans’ Suicide to investigate the causes to and prevention of suicides among returning Illinois veterans.
According to a recent U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs study, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in this country. Veterans needing mental health support can call the crisis hotline 24/7 at 800-273-8255, press 1. Chatting is available online at http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ or by texting 838255.
Task Force hearings are scheduled to take place across the State to focus on the mental health challenges facing veterans from all eras of service on the following dates and locations.
Monday, May 2 from 10 am – 2 pm at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, IL
Monday, May 16 from 10 am – 2 pm at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, IL
Tuesday, June 14 from 10 am – 2 pm and 5-7 pm at College of Lake County in Grayslake, IL
Wednesday, June 15 from 10 am – 2 pm at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL
Thursday, June 16 from 10 am – 2 pm at Triton College in River Grove, IL
Members of the Task Force on Veterans’ Suicide include:
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego)
State Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park)
State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Naperville)
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Schimpf, United States Marine Corps (Retired)
(Representing State Sen Christine Radogno (R-Lemont)
Secretary James T. Dimas, Illinois Department of Human Services
Lieutenant Commander Tom Miller, Medical Service Corps, U. S. Navy (Retired) Veteran Services Illinois Division of Mental Health
Greg Dooley, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Lt. Col. Steve Foster, Illinois Army National Guard Deputy Command Chaplain
Jennifer Martin, Illinois Department of Public Health, and
Dr. Edward S. Landreth, PsyD. VISN 12 Mental Health Lead from the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago who will provide additional guidance on the Task Force.
“One veteran who believes that suicide is the only solution, is one too many,” Kifowit said. “No matter which branch a veteran has served in, we all live by the code to ‘never leave someone behind’. We are committed to not leaving these veterans behind and working together to help save lives.”
Kifowit and Cullerton collaborated to create the Task Force on Veterans’ Suicide. The Task Force will gather information from veterans, organizations and companies on how the state can more effectively meet the needs of the veteran community. This includes focusing on all aspects of a veteran’s support network, employment, and support for veterans’ families, and their time spent in combat.
“If we can find meaningful solutions through our work on this Task Force, not only are we healing our state and veterans, but we are going to have an impact throughout the nation,” Cullerton said. “We continue to hear alarming statistics on veteran suicide rates. Our mission is clear: we need to bring the statistic to zero veteran suicides a day.”
Kifowit and Cullerton were joined at the press conference announcing the hearings by the Chairperson of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee State Representative Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), USMC Veteran Captain Alexandra Stokman Brackett from Peoria, IL and Army Veteran Sergeant Will Attig from Carbondale, IL.
“My hope is that through this Task Force we can make genuine strides in assisting veterans and helping save lives,” Chapa LaVia said. “As the Chair of the Veterans’ Committee, I look forward to working with Representative Kifowit and Senator Cullerton and the members of the Task Force on finding ways we can meet our obligations to those who have sacrificed so much for our nation.”
For more information on the Task Force, please contact Kifowit’s office at 217-782-8028.
If you cannot attend a taskforce meeting, but would like to share your experiences please submit it below.