September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In support of this program, the veterans of Cherokee and Pickens counties, to include American Legion Post 45 in Canton, Post 316 in Woodstock and Post 149 in Jasper, have launched an innovative program to help veterans in crisis.
Launched on Aug. 31, a day ahead of schedule, veterans in crisis can pick up “Don’t Struggle Alone” tagged cards at various locations across the counties that will connect them to the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans website, where they can find multiple sources of free mental health support: https://www.cherokeehomelessvets.com/mental-health-coalition. The cards and posters supporting the campaign are being placed in various retail shops, government buildings, churches and restaurant locations. Veterans can discreetly pick up one of the cards or scan the QR code on the poster. This will allow the veteran to connect with local VSOs, national or local mental health providers, and VA mental health resources at no cost to the veteran. Veterans in immediate need can also reach out to connect with the 988 National Crisis line or 911.
Program funding for the cards and posters was made possible through proceeds from last year's Red White and Blue BBQ event. This event is again being held on Oct. 28 at Post 45 at 160 McClure St. in Canton. This year’s proceeds again will be going to support expansion of this program. The mental health support for veterans was made possible through a federal grant called SSG Fox Veteran Mental Health Awareness and Veteran Suicide Prevention, sponsored by VA.
In addition to the Fox grant, Congress approved - and it was signed into law in January 2023 - the Veteran's COMPACT Act that provides that any veteran who served in the military experiencing an acute mental health issue can call 911. The entire process, from EMTs coming on site to respond and transport to the nearest local emergency room, and finally to VA mental health care, is to be provided at no cost to the veteran. EMT/ambulance organizations and local ER providers are reimbursed through VA. Currently, National Guard members are not covered under this program.
Jim Lindenmayer, director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans program, noted that this program is very important to our veterans as funding from local cities, counties and the State of Georgia has not been forthcoming for veteran mental health programs. We knew that it was important for us (veterans) to stand up and find a way to help our fellow veterans who are suffering from homelessness, PTSD, combat stress, traumatic brain injuries, military sexual trauma and other mental health issues. We also know that outreach is the most effective way we can reach veterans in crisis.
If you are a business that would like to obtain posters or QR cards to place in your establishment, please reach out to any local VSO or contact Jim Lindenmayer at email@example.com.