Fargo VA Chaplain brings faith-based suicide prevention approach to Washington

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A Fargo VA leader is in our nation’s capital this week sharing her work on suicide prevention. Her faith-based approach to prevention is peaking the interest of folks from around the country.

Julia Shreve, the Chief Chaplain for the Fargo VA Health Care System is bringing her big ideas to the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Experience event in Washington, D.C.

Shreve is turning to faith-based organizations to help with the tragedy that is veteran suicide. She says training these organizations in suicide prevention creates a communal atmosphere for helping veterans in need.

“We maybe reach one at the training but then they can go and reach maybe 10 more or 20 more so that people will be looking for the signs of risk and know that it’s okay to ask, ‘Are you thinking of harming yourself?’” said Shreve.

Shreve says in addition to training, they give out gunlocks to veterans in North Dakota. She says that extra hurdle in accessing a firearm can give the individual a moment of clarity to opt out of suicide.

“We need to get them past that rough spot and back into a frame of mind where they can proceed ahead,” said Shreve.

VA leaders tell us it is full speed ahead with this kind of innovation. They say these gatherings allow for face to face collaboration that lead to smarter care for veterans.

“We’re here because we want to ensure that the veteran experience is the best possible that we can deliver,” said John D’Adamo Jr., the acting director of the Veterans Health Administration Innovators Network.

D’Adamo says bringing folks together from around the country allows them to bounce ideas off each other. He stresses that one-size-fits-all innovation is not effective when the focus should be on each individual veteran.

“Working with individuals and being understanding of their unique needs. So we really want to encourage that with all of our projects,” said D’Adamo.

Shreve says they are planning another mass training in Fargo later in September.

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