Rural Veterans are at a 20% increased risk of suicide compared to their urban counterparts. A public health approach to suicide prevention involves collaborating across systems. However, implementing public health suicide prevention in rural places is challenged by a pervasive lack of resources and health care workforce shortages. Within this context, empowering Veterans to be leaders for change in their communities is a promising strategy for enhancing community capacity and reducing suicide risk. Together With Veterans (TWV) is a US Dept. of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health Program for community-based, Veteran-driven suicide prevention. TWV enlists rural Veterans and their partners to join forces to reduce Veteran suicide. Each TWV community develops its own Veteran-led collaborative and unique action plan. This panel will feature two Veteran community representatives currently running the TWV Program in their rural communities. It will also include the principle investigator who helped develop the initial program and the implementation lead who has seen the program through the development phase. Speakers will talk about the challenges and successes of having a public health program run locally by Veterans and for Veterans. They will speak about what makes the development of this model unique for rural communities and speak about the future directions for the Program as a whole. The breakout will provide a unique opportunity to hear directly from rural Veterans about what works and what is needed, as well as how they have been able to become vocal voices and leaders in their communities.
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