TRENTON – Following an announcement by Governor Christie that the Vets4Warriors Program will continue its operations with State support, Senator Richard J. Codey (D-Essex and Morris) released the following statement:
“I commend the Governor for his support of the Vets4Warriors program, which has proven to be a remarkable success in its efforts to prevent suicide among veterans since its 2011 inception, and I strongly urge the Department of Defense to reconsider its decision to terminate funding for the valuable services this helpline provides,” said Senator Codey. “The program serves vulnerable individuals who have sacrificed so much to defend our country and protect our freedoms. We can’t turn our backs on our veterans who are returning home and in need of much support.”
Governor Christie’s announcement on Friday, which stated that a portion of the $8 million allocated in New Jersey’s FY 2016 budget to ensure and expand access to health care for veterans in the State will be used to support the Vets4Warriors program, followed attempts by New Jersey lawmakers to get an explanation from the U.S. Department of Defense on the decision to suspend federal funding for the program without public notice and to request that the decision be revisited. Funding by the Department of Defense is set to end on August 15, 2015.
“Reports show that 22 veterans take their own lives every day, and even that number has been disputed as an underestimated figure. It is unquestionable that one lost life is one too many,” said Senator Codey. “The rising number of suicides among our service members ensures that demand is high for such services, and it is incumbent upon us to meet our veterans’ needs and deliver these critical mental health services to the men and women who endured so much and now need our help to heal.”
According to a Department of Veterans Affairs report released in 2013, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day, or one every 65 minutes. The study analyzed suicide data from 1999 to 2010, and found that while the percentage of all suicides reported as Veterans has decreased, the number of suicides has increased.
Vets4Warriors, operated by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care based in Piscataway, New Jersey, is a peer support call center that began in December 2011 to meet the underserved needs of the returning National Guard and Reserve members. Recognizing the difficulties of returning military into civilian life, Vets4Warriors has provided peer support and assistance to active duty service men and women around the world to ensure that troops struggling with depression and other psychological or emotional concerns get the help they need.
Since 2011, the Vets4Warriors program has had over 130,000 contacts with service members and their families, including incoming and follow up calls and from live chat and email. The program employs 40 veterans and four licensed mental health clinicians. Ninety-five percent of the Vets4Warriors program peers are Veterans.