Maryland launches new program to help reduce suicides for veterans


James Sklar


In 2021, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration partnered with the US Department of Veteran Affairs to initiate a challenge for states and cities. 


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The effort is called Governor’s and Mayor’s Challenges to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF). Made up of military and civilian teams, the challenge is to start working to develop and implement statewide suicide prevention best practices for SMVF, using a public health approach.

Key aspects of the challenge include reducing suicide among service members, veterans, and their families and increasing access to services and support. The challenge has three focused priorities: identifying SMVF and screening for suicide risks, promoting connectedness and improving care transitions, and increasing lethal means safety and safety planning.

The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs are leading a team of more than 30 federal, state, and local partners to develop the plan. Maryland is one of the 52 states and territories taking part in the challenge.

Earlier this month, following the implementation of 10 initial SMVF pilot programs earlier this year, MDH launched the Trained Military Assistance Provider Program (TMAP), which is led by the state program Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans. TMAP is a new initiative for Maryland to help reduce suicides and increase lethal-means safety for its services members and veterans.

“It is important that we train everyone on how to recognize warning signs as well as how to have conversations about safely storing weapons, what medications the patient can access, and what protections they can put in place” said Dr. Lisa Burgess, MDH Acting Deputy Secretary for the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA).

TMAP is free for Maryland-based primary care staff and aims to train the staff on mental health, suicide risk assessment, and intervention. Maryland hopes this will help providers better understand military and veteran culture, allowing its members to create a safety plan in a culturally competent way for military members.

TMAP offers 3.5 hours of training online, which includes 10 self-paced courses. Courses include military culture, safety planning, barriers to care, lethal means counseling, and risk assessment tools.

After implementing this program statewide, Maryland teams now have to work to define and measure TMAP success and outcomes, which will be reported back to key stakeholders.