Operation Deep Dive has officially celebrated its first-year anniversary as of December 1, 2018. In this post, we’d like to share with you some of the accomplishments we are most proud of, as well as challenges we have had along the way.
Year One Successes:
In our first year, we launched the study in the first seven communities and selected the additional seven communities starting in 2019.
Community Action Teams (CAT) and the local Research Assistants from the first seven communities have already begun to make a positive impact in their communities. For example, in a Charleston meeting on Veteran homelessness and suicide, CAT members were surprised to learn that Veterans on the cusp of homelessness are at a higher risk of suicide according to a VA 2018 report. The CAT members then talked about ways to approach individuals at risk of homelessness with more awareness of this risk, and how to best support their mental health. Improvements big and small are happening in our communities as people work together to solve this crisis.
We have built relationships big and small across the country. This includes 116 local community organizations who have joined our CATs, and federal relationships with the VA, DoD, CDC and United Way.
From the state of Minnesota and District 1 of Florida, we now have lists of all suicides from the last 2 to 4 years. We will be confirming how many of these are Veterans in 2019.
We have built relationships with Medical Examiners and Coroners that will allow us to identify locally deceased Veterans from suicide or self-harm. In 2019, we will begin to dive deep into the lives of these individuals to find out if patterns emerge that can help us prevent more suicides.
Year One Challenges:
A big challenge we have found is that there is no standard way to track whether a deceased person is a Veteran across different states or counties. In Florida, for example, they ask if someone served in the Army, leaving out all other branches. In other places they may or may not ask at all and have no systematic way of tracking. As a result of our conversations with coroners in South Carolina, these communities are taking the lead in standardizing identification of who was a Veteran.
In addition, the number and complexity of data-sharing agreements needed at the state, county, and federal level has been a challenge. These agreements are vital to achieve our goal of accurately identifying the number of Veteran suicides and death by self-harm in each community.
Coming up in our blog posts for March, we will talk about what is ahead for Operation Deep Dive in 2019, and feature updates from:
1. Metro Atlanta, GA
2. Orange County, CA
3. Panhandle, FL
4. Twin Cities, MN
5. Upstate, SC
Have questions about our study? Please email them to email@example.com and we may feature an answer to your question in an upcoming post!
*VA National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, Homeless Evidence and Research Synthesis (HERS) Roundtable Proceedings: Suicide and Homeless Veterans, February 27, 2018, 3.