Grand Junction VA leader discusses connection between pain management and suicide prevention in D.C.

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

“Suicide prevention as all of us in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah know is just such a serious topic,” said Beth Roten, education program manager for the Grand Junction Veterans Health Care System.

Roten believes early intervention could mean fewer suicides. She says a leading cause of veteran suicide is chronic pain. So, at the Grand Junction VA, her team is evaluating veterans with serious pain and getting them a swath of services, including mental health.

“We wanted to make sure that we were identifying patients that might need mental health, might need whole health, and veterans health education as soon as possible,” said Roten.

She says pain can consume a veteran. The Grand Junction VA wants to address that right off the bat.

“If they have pain we are getting them to the right services and comprehensive services as soon as possible,” said Roten.

VA leaders say it is full speed ahead with this kind of innovation. They say these gatherings allow for face-to-face collaboration that leads 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.

The third annual event concludes Thursday night.