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Inside the Gates: Sen. Sullivan continues to look for solutions regarding Alaska active duty suicide rates

Between 2018 and 2021, Alaska recorded a total of 29 military deaths linked to suicide, according to statistics from the U.S. Army Alaska.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 4:07 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After hosting a listening session in April on military bases in Alaska regarding suicide among military members, Sen. Dan Sullivan and California Rep. Jackie Speier noticed a need for additional mental health resources in the state.

We are very focused on trying to address what the challenges are,” Sullivan said.

Between 2018 and 2021, Alaska recorded a total of 29 military deaths linked to suicide, according to statistics from the U.S. Army Alaska.

According to Sullivan, he and Speier noticed a lack of openings for mental health appointments. Some active duty members told them that they are facing wait times between three to six months for an appointment.

In addressing the situation, Sullivan wrote Army Secretary Christine Wormuth with recommendations on what they believe the next steps should be moving forward. Sullivan wrote that the Army needs to do more to address the deaths and take preventive action in making sure they do not continue.

“There’s a lot of work to do and we’re just really focused on listening to the people it’s mostly affected,” Sullivan said.

One local program that is available to military personnel is the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Alaska Behavioral Health. The clinic is open to all current and past armed forces members, in addition to their loved ones. The program works to help break potential barriers that may be limiting someone from coming in to use their services.

“If there is ever a barrier getting care — whether that be coming in person, or coming via telehealth, whether that be a child care need or a transportation need — we’re here for you,” said Mary Beth Goodman with the clinic. “And we can help work through those barriers to make sure that people are getting the care they need, when they need it.”

Military members looking for services can check out the web page JBER connect, which provides a list of services that are often around Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for different mental health needs.

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