Small change in Waco, Texas creates domino effect for suicide awareness

Jonathan Kaupanger
September 20, 2018 - 2:16 pm

Photo by Waco VARO

Sometimes small changes have a big impact.  Or in the case of suicide prevention, a small change can save lives.

As part of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), VA’s Regional Benefits Office (VARO) in Waco, Texas administers a variety of services for veterans and their families in Texas.  Most often, they deal with things like compensation or pension benefits but recently they realized they had a part to play in suicide prevention.

“In order to make an impact, we in the Veterans Benefits Administration need to actively support these efforts,” says John Limpose, VARO director in Waco.  “We touch veterans’ lives every day,” says Limpose.  “So we have an obligation to bring suicide prevention efforts to the forefront, in everything we do at VBA.”

So earlier this year, Limpose developed a Suicide Prevention and Awareness Committee (S-PAC) at his facility.  This eight-member committee quickly realized there was a small change they could make, and this change could really save a life.

“We generate thousands of letters to veterans from the Waco VARO,’ says Limpose.  “So now we list the [Veterans] Crisis Line number in all outgoing letters.”  They made a change to the VARO postage meter and now the number is stamped on all outgoing envelopes.  “If we can touch one life meaningfully through our mailings that would be a huge achievement.”

The small Waco change grew in size.  Limpose coordinated with VBA’s Office of Business Process Integration so now every outgoing letter generated from an FBA facility in the country includes the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) logo and phone number.  This spread next to VBA’s National Work Queue.  Local VBA offices process claims and then send the information out through VBA’s centralized mail system.  The VCL information is included on all of this mail now too.

Next up, they arranged for all 800 Waco VARO employees to have suicidal caller guidelines at their fingertips.  Now, if needed, VARO employees are able to provide help while coordinating with VCL staff or other emergency responders.

The 'big' little change didn’t stop.  Home to the Dr. Pepper Museum and a mammoth fossil site, Waco is the number two trending travel destination in the country.  Directly across the street from the VARO office, you’ll find HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines' tendy Magnolia Market at the Silos.  This popular tourist destination averages 30,000 visitors a week.  The S-PAC team took advantage of the foot traffic by putting up signs with the VCL phone number by the sidewalks around their building. 

The Texas benefits office has also been busy with special outreach events to bring attention to veteran suicide and suicide prevention.  On September 9, they held an event called "Veterans for Suicide Prevention - Finding the 14." The number 14 represents the fact that of the 20 veterans who contemplate suicide every day, only six of them have received treatment at a VA facility within the past year. 

Next up for Waco’s VARO is the Out of the Darkness Walk on September 29.  This is a nationwide effort to increase awareness and raise funds to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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