Veteran Organization Partners Mafucci/Berger


WOODRUFF: OUR FIRST SPEAKER
IS DR. JACQUELINE MAFFUCCI, AND SHE’S THE RESEARCH
DIRECTOR FOR THE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
VETERANS OF AMERICA, ANOTHER FABULOUS ORGANIZATION
THAT I NEGLECTED TO MENTION EARLIER WHEN I WAS TALKING
ABOUT MY COLLEAGUES IN THE ROOM ALONG WITH OTHERS, SO EXCUSE ME
IF I’VE LEFT YOU OUT. SHE ALSO CURRENTLY SERVES
ON THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR PTSD EDUCATION
ADVISORY BOARD AND THE DEPARTMENT
OF VETERAN AFFAIRS WOMEN’S HEALTH
CREATE VETERANS COUNCIL AS WELL AS THE NATIONAL ACADEMIC
AFFILIATIONS COUNCIL, AND PRIOR
TO BEING AT IAVA, DR. MAFFUCCI SPENT
NEARLY 4 YEARS AS A CONSULTANT
TO THE PENTAGON FOCUSING ON BEHAVIORAL HEALTH
POLICY FOR THE ARMY, INCLUDING TWO YEARS ON THE ARMY
SUICIDE PREVENTION TASK FORCE. I’M GONNA GO AHEAD
AND INTRODUCE DR. TOM BERGER, BECAUSE I BELIEVE HE’LL JUST
TAKE THE STAGE RIGHT AFTERWARDS. SO WE WILL WELCOME HIM
AFTER DR. MAFFUCCI. AND HE’S THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
OF THE VETERANS HEALTH COUNCIL AT THE VIETNAM VETERANS
OF AMERICA NATIONAL OFFICE, AND AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
DR. BERGER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR DEVELOPING AND PRESENTING
CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY AND POSITION PAPERS
ON VETERANS BENEFITS, HEALTH CARE, MENTAL HEALTH,
AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE ISSUES. DR. BERGER IS ALSO
A VETERAN, HAVING SERVED
AS A NAVY CORPSMAN WITH THE THIRD MARINE CORPS
DIVISION IN VIETNAM FROM ’68–I’M SORRY–
FROM ’66 TO ’68. PLEASE WELCOME TOM BERGER, BUT THAT WILL BE AFTER
DR. MAFFUCCI. SO, UM, THANK YOU ALL. IT’S BEEN SUCH A DELIGHT
TO BE WITH YOU, AND I HOPE TO SEE YOU AGAIN
AT ANOTHER EVENT. [APPLAUSE] MAFFUCCI: THANK YOU ALL. SO, I’M GONNA DO SOMETHING
THAT I USUALLY DON’T DO, WHICH IS GO OFF SCRIPT
A LITTLE BIT. UM…I’VE BEEN
REALLY IMPRESSED BY SO MANY OF THE SPEAKERS
HERE TODAY, AND…AND I’M FEELING
SO INSPIRED BY EVERYONE HERE TODAY. SO THANK YOU, AND THANK YOU
FOR ALLOWING ME TO BE HERE. THIS IS QUITE AN HONOR. SO, A FEW…
A FEW WEEKS AGO AT IAVA, WE HAD AN OFF-SITE
WITH ALL OF OUR STAFF MEMBERS, AND AS ONE
OF OUR ICEBREAKERS, OUR CEO ASKED US
TO GO AROUND THE ROOM AND TALK ABOUT WHAT KEEPS US
COMING BACK TO WORK EVERY DAY. THIS IS A TOUGH
SPACE TO WORK IN, AND MENTAL HEALTH AND SOME
OF THE ISSUES WE TACKLE, VERY HARD TO KEEP COMING BACK
DAY AFTER DAY. SO, WHEN IT GOT TO MY TURN,
I KIND OF FOCUSED IN ON ONE SPECIFIC REASON, BUT
TODAY I REALIZE THERE ARE TWO. THE TOP REASON ARE PEOPLE
LIKE SUSAN AND RICHARD AND CLAY HUNT, LIKE JEAN
AND HOWARD SOMERS AND DANIEL, AND ALSO SO MANY
OF OUR MEMBERS WHO HAVE BEEN
SO INSPIRING TO ME, WHO HAVE COME BACK FROM…
FROM MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES, FROM SUICIDE ATTEMPTS,
AND ARE SO SUCCESSFUL IN LEADING OUR VETERAN COMMUNITY
IN EFFECTING CHANGE, PEOPLE LIKE CHRIS GOLDSMITH,
WHO SPENDS A WEEK ON THE HILL, UM, ADVOCATING FOR
BAD PAPER DISCHARGES AND…AND REVIEWING
BAD PAPER DISCHARGE SO THAT THE WEAKEST
OF THE VETERANS CAN ALSO PERHAPS GET
SOME CARE FROM THE VA, UM…PEOPLE LIKE
SARAH PIQUET, WHO’S WORKING IN THE DALLAS
BRAIN HEALTH CENTER. AND THESE ARE ALL VETERANS
WHO HAVE SO INSPIRED ME. I ALSO COME BACK EVERY DAY
BECAUSE, HONESTLY, IT JUST ISN’T…
IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD. EVERY DAY I SAY THAT
TO MYSELF– IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD. AND SO I’M THRILLED
THAT WE’RE HERE TODAY, AND MY MESSAGE TODAY IS
IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD. AND THAT’S WHERE
I WANT US TO FOCUS AND SO FAR I THINK WE’VE HAD
A NUMBER OF SPEAKERS WHO HAVE FOCUSED
ON EXACTLY THAT. SO BASICALLY FOR THE LAST
7 YEARS, GIVE OR TAKE, MY FOCUS HAS BEEN ON MILITARY
AND VETERAN ISSUES, WITH AN EMPHASIS
ON HEALTH. AND AS I SAID, THAT JOB,
IT CAN BE REALLY HARD. IT CAN BE HEARTBREAKING
AT TIMES. ON THE SUICIDE
PREVENTION TASK FORCE, ONE OF MY JOBS WAS,
EVERY DAY, AS WE WERE GETTING REPORTS
OF NEW SUICIDES, TO TRIAGE THEM,
TO REVIEW THOSE. THOSE STORIES STAY WITH ME
EVERY SINGLE DAY. SO, WHAT I WANTED
TO DO TODAY IS REALLY TAKE
THE CHALLENGE TO HEART AND THINK ABOUT
WHAT CAN WE DO NOW, AND SO I’M GOING TO PUT
THIS CHALLENGE OUT TO EVERYONE. I’VE COME
WITH 4 CHALLENGES THAT I THINK WE AS A GROUP
CAN GET DONE BY SEPTEMBER, SEPTEMBER BEING SUICIDE
PREVENTION AWARENESS MONTH. SO HOW WONDERFUL WOULD IT BE
FOR US TO BE ABLE TO COME TOGETHER
IN SEPTEMBER AND SAY LOOK AT WHAT WE’VE
ACCOMPLISHED. AND THEN WE’LL TAKE THAT
MOMENTUM AND MOVE FROM THERE. SO FIRST, I’D LIKE TO PROPOSE
THAT WE NEED A CHAMPION. WE NEED A CONVENING AUTHORITY. WE NEED SOMEONE TO ORGANIZE
ALL OF THIS ENERGY AND ALL OF THIS MOMENTUM
INTO SOMETHING A LITTLE BIT MORE CONTRIVED,
A LITTLE BIT MORE ORGANIZED, AND MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE. EVERY ONE OF US
IN THIS ROOM HAS MADE AN IMPACT
ON THIS ISSUE. THINK OF WHAT WE CAN DO IF WE
REALLY UNITED AND CAME TOGETHER AND PUT TOGETHER A PLAN
AND IMPLEMENTED THAT. I’VE SEEN, TO SOME DEGREE,
WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE. I SAW IT IN FEBRUARY,
WHEN MANY OF YOU IN THIS ROOM JOINED IAVA, JOINED THE VA,
AND JOINED OTHERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE TO SEE
THE CLAY HUNT SAV ACT SIGNED INTO LAW. THAT WAS AN EXTREMELY
PROUD MOMENT FOR ME FOR A FEW REASONS. ONE, JUST
THE LEGISLATION ITSELF. I REALLY THINK THAT
THAT’S LEGISLATION THAT’S GOING
TO SAVE LIVES. BUT TWO, EVERYONE
IN THE ROOM TOGETHER. IT WAS AMAZING
TO ME TO SEE SO MANY VETERANS
SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS, MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATES,
SURVIVORS, MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, THE VA, DOD, AND OF COURSE
THE WHITE HOUSE STAFF ALL TOGETHER CELEBRATING THIS
GREAT THING THAT WE HAD DONE. THAT’S THE MOMENTUM
THAT WE NEED TO HOLD ONTO. THAT’S THE MOMENTUM
THAT WE NEED TO KEEP AND WE NEED TO USE
TO MOVE THE CONVERSATION AND MORE IMPORTANTLY
THE ACTIONS FORWARD. AND SO I’D LIKE US
TO LEAVE THE ROOM TODAY KNOWING WHO
OUR CHAMPION IS, KNOWING WHO THAT ONE
INDIVIDUAL ENTITY, ORGANIZATION WHO’S GOING TO KEEP US
ALL ON TASK. GOT A COUPLE OF RECOMMENDATIONS
THAT I’M JUST GONNA THROW OUT, BUT THERE MIGHT BE OTHERS THAT
ARE MORE EITHER WILLING OR ABLE. I SEE THE NATIONAL
ACTION ALLIANCE AS A FANTASTIC BODY
WHO COULD TAKE ON THIS TASK. I THINK THIS IS AN EXPANSION
OF THE ROLE THEY ALREADY PLAY, AND I’D LOVE TO SEE THEM
REALLY TAKE THE ROLE THAT THEY’VE BEEN GIVEN
AND OWN IT AND LEAD US ALL
INTO THE FUTURE ON THIS ISSUE. MAYBE IT’S
JOINING FORCES. THEY’VE ALREADY
DONE SO MUCH WITH THE CAMPAIGN
THAT BARBARA JUST SPOKE OF. AND THEY’VE DONE SO MUCH FOR OUR MILITARY
AND VETERAN COMMUNITIES. SO MAYBE THEY’RE
THE CHAMPION. THOSE ARE THE TWO.
THEY CAN BATTLE IT OUT. UM, BUT THOSE ARE
THE TWO I HAVE IN MIND. AND IF THERE ARE OTHERS,
THEN BY ALL MEANS, LET’S CONSIDER THEM,
BUT LET’S LEAVE THE ROOM TODAY KNOWING WHO THAT IS. SECOND… YOU ALL KNOW ME.
FOR ANYONE WHO KNOWS ME, YOU KNOW I’M
ALL ABOUT DATA. I’M A NEUROSCIENCE NERD. UM…SO DATA
IS MY MANTRA. AND I…WHEN I TACKLE ISSUES,
I DON’T WANT TO TACKLE AN ISSUE THINKING THAT I KNOW
THE ANSWER. I WANT TO TACKLE AN ISSUE
KNOWING THAT I KNOW THE ANSWER. AND I TRULY BELIEVE
THERE’S DATA OUT THERE THAT’S RIGHT
BEYOND OUR REACH, THAT WE HAVE YET
TO HARNESS. UM, SO I WANT TO FOCUS
ON TWO SPECIFIC DATA ARENAS. ONE IS THE CDC’s
NATIONAL DEATH INDEX. THE CDC DATA
IS YEARS BEHIND. IT’S BEEN…
WE’VE RECOGNIZED THIS AS– WHEN I WAS AT THE SUICIDE
PREVENTION TASK FORCE 5 YEARS, 4 YEARS AGO, WE RECOGNIZED THIS
AS A CHALLENGE. THE DATA IS LAGGING. AND IN THIS DAY AND AGE
OF TECHNOLOGY, OF BIG DATA, AND TECHNOLOGY DRIVEN SOLUTIONS,
IT’S REALLY HARD FOR ME TO BELIEVE THAT THERE’S NOT
AN EASY SOLUTION OUT THERE TO BE ABLE
TO GET THAT DATA A LITTLE BIT CLOSER
TO REAL TIME, YOU KNOW, MAYBE…MAYBE
WITHIN A YEAR MIGHT BE GREAT. UM…HECK, REAL-TIME
WOULD BE AMAZING. AND I BELIEVE THAT THERE IS
A TECH COMPANY OUT THERE THAT CAN MAKE THAT HAPPEN. AND SO I WANT TO ISSUE
THE CHALLENGE THAT WE OPEN THIS UP
TO THE TECH COMPANIES, THAT WE ASK THEM
TO COME SOLVE THIS PROBLEM– HOW CAN WE BRING THIS DATA
INTO THE 21st CENTURY? AND I CHALLENGE THE CDC
TO ASK FOR IT. LET’S OPEN IT UP
TO THE TECH. I KNOW THERE’S A LOT
OF, UM…BUREAUCRACY INVOLVED, AND MAYBE IT ISN’T AS SIMPLE
AS I’M MAKING IT OUT TO BE, BUT I REALLY THINK IT IS. UM…SO I CHALLENGE THE CDC
TO ENLIST PARTNERS IN TECHNOLOGY TO START WORKING ON THIS,
AND I REALLY DO BELIEVE THAT, IF NOT BY SEPTEMBER,
THEN BY THE END OF THE YEAR, WE CAN HAVE A SOLUTION. AND THAT WILL LEAD
TO MORE DATA, NOT ONLY IN JUST UNDERSTANDING
THE SUICIDE RATES, WHICH IS USEFUL
BUT NOT NECESSARILY THE END-ALL BE-ALL
OF WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW, BUT ALSO PUT TOGETHER A SYSTEM
WHEREBY WE CAN UNDERSTAND MORE OF THE HEALTH DATA
ASSOCIATED WITH THAT FROM THE CIVILIAN
STANDPOINT. AND I SHOULD MENTION THAT WHEN
WE TALK ABOUT CIVILIAN DATA, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
VETERAN DATA AS WELL. SO EARLIER, ROB BOSART,
UM…AND I THINK THERE’S BEEN OTHER MENTIONS OF THE JOINT SUICIDE
DATA REPOSITORY. I CANNOT TELL YOU
HOW EXCITED I WAS WHEN THE SUICIDE DATA REPOSITORY
WAS FIRST ANNOUNCED IN 2011, WHEN I WAS STILL
OVERWORKING AT THE ARMY SUICIDE
PREVENTION TASK FORCE. THIS, TO ME…THIS IS…
THIS IS A GOLD MINE OF DATA, NOT JUST ON UNDERSTANDING
VETERAN SUICIDE RATES, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY AGAIN,
LOOKING AT A CROSS-SECTION OF THE EPIDEMIOLOGICAL SCOPE
OF VETERAN HEALTH. THIS, TO ME, SHOULD BE
THE UTMOST PRIORITY. AND I’VE BEEN–
I’M NOT GONNA LIE. I’VE BEEN DISAPPOINTED, BECAUSE
THIS WAS ESTABLISHED IN 2011, AND HERE WE ARE IN 2016,
AND A LOT OF THAT…THAT WEALTH, THAT GOLD THAT I KNOW
IS IN THERE HAS NOT BEEN HARVESTED. AND SO MY CHALLENGE IS THAT,
WITH THE VA, WE FIND A SOLUTION. HOW CAN WE BETTER RESOURCE
THIS REPOSITORY? HOW CAN WE PULL IN
ACADEMIC PARTNERS SO THAT THEY CAN START
CHURNING ON THIS DATA? BECAUSE THIS DATA,
I’M CONVINCED, IS GONNA BE DATA
THAT IS GOING TO BE NECESSARY FOR US TO GET
THOSE DATA-DRIVEN SOLUTIONS TO REALLY START LOOKING AT
AND ADDRESSING AND SOLVING THE VETERANS SUICIDE
CHALLENGES THAT WE HAVE. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND
THE CHALLENGE BEFORE WE CAN EFFECT
THE SOLUTION. SO, MY THIRD RECOMMENDATION–
AND THIS ONE, I THINK, IS ONE VERY EASILY ACCOMPLISHED
WITH THE RIGHT PARTNERS– IS TO MOVE THE VA SUICIDE
PREVENTION OFFICE FROM WHERE IT IS RIGHT NOW, WHICH IS UNDER
THE MENTAL HEALTH OFFICE IN VA, WHICH IS UNDER
CLINICAL OPERATIONS, WHICH IS FAR REMOVED
FROM THE VA SECRETARY. MOVE IT UP
IN THE VA HIERARCHY. RECOGNIZE THAT
SUICIDE PREVENTION IS NOT JUST ABOUT
MENTAL HEALTH. WE’VE HEARD STORIES TODAY
OF…OF AMAZING MEN WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
NOT JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE STRUGGLING
WITH MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES, BUT THEY WERE ALSO STRUGGLING
WITH THINGS LIKE VA BENEFITS AND REALLY THE VA
SYSTEM OVERALL. AND WE KNOW THAT SUICIDE IS NOT
JUST TIED TO MENTAL HEALTH. WE KNOW THAT THERE ARE SOCIAL
ISSUES THAT IMPACT AS WELL. SO LET’S GIVE THE SUICIDE
PREVENTION OFFICE IN THE VA THE BREADTH
AND THE RECOGNITION TO BE ABLE TO ADDRESS
THIS HOLISTICALLY, TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT
THE SOCIAL ISSUES AS WELL AS THE MENTAL
HEALTH ISSUES. WHAT I ENVISION,
AND WHAT WE AT IAVA ENVISION, IS AN OFFICE
WITH EXPANDED RESOURCING AND EXPANDED STAFF,
ITS OWN BUDGET, UM… THE ABILITY TO LEAD ON SOME
OF THESE DATA INITIATIVES, THE ABILITY TO EXPAND
ON THE CRISIS HOTLINE, UM…THE ABILITY TO REALLY HAVE
THE VISIBILITY AND THE CLOUT AND THE SUPPORT THAT IT NEEDS
TO REALLY DO ITS JOB, AND TO HONESTLY BE
ON THE SAME LEVEL AS THAT OF THE DEFENSE
SUICIDE PREVENTION OFFICE, WHICH DOES HAVE
ITS OWN STAFF AND AN ARMY,
IF I MIGHT SAY, UM…HAS ITS OWN BUDGET,
AND REALLY HAS THE EAR OF THE SECRETARY
OF DEFENSE AND HAS PRETTY GOOD ACCESS
TO THE SECRETARY. SO YOU’LL HEAR MORE
FROM IAVA ON THIS INITIATIVE. WE’RE STILL KIND OF
PUTTING OUT THE… PUTTING TOGETHER
THE DETAILS, BUT TO ME, THIS…
THIS SEEMS PRETTY EASY IF…IF…IF WE GET
THE SUPPORT, IF THIS MAKES SENSE
TO PEOPLE OTHER THAN MYSELF
AND MY COLLEAGUES. UM, SO WE’LL BE TALKING
TO OTHERS IN THE COMMUNITY AND TO THE VA
AND TO CONGRESS TO TACKLE THE CHALLENGES
THAT WE NEED TO TACKLE TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN. FINALLY…I WANT
TO GO BACK TO, UM… MY VERY DEAR FRIENDS,
RICHARD AND SUSAN SELKE. I SPENT A LOT
OF TIME WITH THEM AS WE WERE ADVOCATING
FOR THE CLAY HUNT SAV ACT, AND A LOT OF OUR CONVERSATIONS,
WE REALLY…WE SPOKE A LOT ABOUT THE NEED
TO EMPHASIZE COMMUNITY AND TO EMPHASIZE HOPE. AND THERE ARE
SO MANY STORIES THAT EMBODY THIS
IN OUR VETERAN COMMUNITY, THE STORIES OF COMMUNITY,
THE STORIES OF HOPE, THE STORIES OF SUCCESS,
CHALLENGES THAT WERE OVERCOME, UM…INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE
LEADING OUR COMMUNITY RIGHT NOW. AND YET IT’S VERY HARD
TO HEAR THOSE STORIES OUT IN THE MAIN…
IN THE MAIN VIEW. THERE’S REALLY NO…
NO…LARGE…LARGE EFFORT, LARGE COLLABORATIVE EFFORT
FROM ALL OF US TO TRY AND GET
THESE STORIES OFF. THERE ARE ONE-OFFS.
UM…THERE ARE CERTAINLY STORIES THAT ARE COMING OUT,
BUT HOW POWERFUL IF WE WERE TO JOIN FORCES
FOR A COLLECTIVE CAMPAIGN THAT REALLY FOCUSED ON THESE
STORIES OF SUCCESS AND HOPE? LET’S COME TOGETHER AS ONE,
USE THE RESOURCES WE HAVE TO REALLY SHINE
A LIGHT SO THAT WE CAN REACH
THE PEOPLE NOW WHO ARE FEELING LOST
AND WHO ARE FEELING HOPELESS AND LET THEM KNOW
THAT OTHERS HAVE WALKED
IN THEIR SHOES BEFORE, AND LOOK AT WHERE
THEY ARE NOW. LET’S TRY TO REACH THEM
THAT WAY AS A UNIFIED BODY RATHER THAN AS INDIVIDUALS. I THINK, AGAIN, ALL OF THIS
WE CAN GET DONE BY SEPTEMBER. THESE ARE…
I KNOW IT SOUNDS HARD, BUT I REALLY
DON’T THINK IT IS. SO THAT’S WHAT
I’M GONNA END WITH. IT’S REALLY NOT THAT HARD
FOR US TO WORK TOGETHER. WE JUST NEED
THE WILL TO DO IT. THANK YOU. [APPLAUSE] BERGER: GOOD MORNING. UM…I WANT TO THANK
THE PARENTS OF CLAY AND DANIEL FOR BEING HERE TODAY, BECAUSE ALTHOUGH THE INDIVIDUAL
CIRCUMSTANCES DIFFER, THE STORY IS THE SAME. I’M ONE OF THE OLD GUYS THAT’S AT HIGH RISK
FOR SUICIDE, NOT ONLY BECAUSE
OF MY AGE, BUT BECAUSE OF
MY VETERAN STATUS. AND SO I’D LIKE TO TAKE
THE TIME TODAY TO TELL YOU
MY OWN PERSONAL STORY THAT HAPPENED
BACK IN THE JURASSIC… [LAUGHTER] WHEN I RETURNED
FROM VIETNAM AND HOW I GOT
FROM THERE TO HERE. NEXT SLIDE, PLEASE. IT STARTED IN VIETNAM. AS WAS SAID, I WAS
A NAVY CORPSMAN WITH THE THIRD
MARINE DIVISION. MY FIRST BRUSH WITH SUICIDE
WAS ONE OF MY RECON PARTNERS TAKING HIS OWN LIFE
RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. FAST-FORWARD TO 1968,
WHEN I GOT OUT. THINGS WERE BOTHERING ME. PTSD WAS NOT RECOGNIZED
AT THAT TIME, AND SO… AND THERE WERE OTHER PROBLEMS
GOING ON AT THE VA AT THAT TIME. AND SO I HUNG OUT
WITH OTHER VIETNAM VETERANS IN WHAT WERE
CALLED RAP GROUPS, WHICH SUBSEQUENTLY
OBVIOUSLY MORPHED INTO WHAT WE NOW KNOW AS THE VETERANS READJUSTMENT
COUNSELING PROGRAM. AND I’M SORRY
THAT SOME OF THOSE GUYS THAT WERE INSTRUMENTAL
AT THAT TIME IN THE FOUNDATION
ARE NOT HERE TODAY, ALTHOUGH THERE ARE SOME
THAT REMEMBER, UM… THE FOLKS INVOLVED IN THAT. IN ANY CASE… ALL RIGHT. SO, I GOT HELP
FROM THE VET CENTERS, OR THE BEGINNINGS
OF THE VET CENTERS AND WORKED STUFF THROUGH. AND I’LL FAST-FORWARD
THROUGH COLLEGE, THROUGH GRADUATE SCHOOL,
THROUGH A COUPLE OF POST-DOC’s TO THE EARLY 1990’s. I HAD JUST ACCEPTED A POSITION
AT ANOTHER UNIVERSITY IN THE MIDWEST. SO THERE WAS SOME STRESS
ABOUT GETTING ORGANIZED, GETTING MOVED THERE
AND THINGS, AND I WAS GONNA BECOME
CO-DIRECTOR OF A RESEARCH GROUP THAT STUDIED YOUNG ADULT
HIGH-RISK BEHAVIORS. WE USED TO REFER TO IT AS SEX,
DRUGS, AND ROCK-AND-ROLL, BUT…SUICIDE WAS ONE
OF THE THINGS THAT WE WERE FOCUSED ON. AS I SAID, A NEW JOB,
LOTS OF PRESSURE. I HAD JUST GOTTEN
SOME MONEY FROM CDC TO TAKE A LOOK AT THIS PROJECT
WITH MY CO-DIRECTOR. AND THEN
THE WORLD CRASHED. MY FATHER DIED. HE WAS
A WORLD WAR II PACIFIC MARINE, AND I’D MADE A GREAT
DEAL OF EFFORT TO GET TO KNOW MY FATHER
AS A VETERAN BEFORE HE PASSED. SO IT MEANT A LOT. WITHIN 3 WEEKS OF THAT, THE ELDEST
OF MY 3 YOUNGER SISTERS, WHOM I WAS VERY,
VERY CLOSE WITH, PASSED AWAY BECAUSE OF
A CEREBRAL HEMORRHAGE. THINGS BEGAN
TO SPIRAL DOWNHILL WITH THOSE KINDS
OF THINGS. THEN I GOT HANDED
DIVORCE PAPERS. SO I GOT UP ONE MORNING– AND I DO A RITUAL.
I’M A VETERAN, YOU KNOW. I DO A RITUAL
IN THE MORNING– DO SOME EXERCISES,
HAVE A CUP OF COFFEE, FIGURE OUT
THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS. I GOT UP ONE MORNING
WITH THAT CUP OF COFFEE, AND I WENT INTO THE BEDROOM,
AND I GOT MY WEAPON AND MY AMMUNITION OUT. I SAID, “THIS IS JUST
TOO MUCH, TOM. YOU CAN’T DEAL WITH ALL THIS
CRAP THAT’S COMING DOWN.” BUT…A BOLT
OF LIGHTNING HIT ME. I’M A MENTAL HEALTH
PROFESSIONAL. YOU NEED TO CALL SOMEBODY.
YOU NEED TO SEEK HELP. THERE WAS A VA IN THIS TOWN,
IN THE CITY. I CALLED, BUT I COULDN’T GET
AN APPOINTMENT FOR TWO WEEKS. SO, FORTUNATELY, I HAD
PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE. SO I CHECKED MYSELF INTO
THE STATE’S PREMIER… SUPPOSEDLY PREMIER
MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY, WHERE THEY LOCKED ME DOWN
IN A WARD WITH PEOPLE WHOM I CAN
ONLY DESCRIBE… WELL, LET ME GIVE YOU
THE ANALOGY. YOU ALL ARE AWARE
OF ARLO GUTHRIE’S SONG ABOUT ALICE’S RESTAURANT
AND LITTERING AND WHO HE WAS THROWN
IN JAIL WITH? THESE PEOPLE
WERE A LOT WORSE. IN FACT, WHAT I’M
ABOUT TO TELL YOU RIVALS SOME OF THE SCENES
THAT NELLIE BLY WROTE ABOUT IN “TEN DAYS IN A MADHOUSE.” THEY LOCKED ME DOWN. THERE WAS NO DISCUSSION
ABOUT WHAT KIND OF MEDICATIONS I WAS GONNA BE GIVEN. AND THEN ON TOP
OF EVERYTHING ELSE, WE OPERATED BY
THE INFAMOUS BELL, LIKE YOUR KINDERGARTEN
TEACHER HAD. YOU MOVED AROUND THE ROOM
WHEN THE BELL RANG. YOU SMOKED OR GET
YOUR SMOKING GROUP ORGANIZED WHEN THE BELL RANG. YOU ATE WHEN THE BELL RANG. FORTUNATELY,
AFTER A FEW DAYS, OK, WITH THE HELP OF
A PSYCHIATRIC SOCIAL WORKER, I WAS ABLE TO GET OUT,
ALL RIGHT, AND START PUTTING THINGS
BACK TOGETHER. WELL, THE FIRST STEP, SINCE I WAS SORT OF
THE NEW KID IN TOWN, IS I TRIED TO FIND
A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL THAT I COULD WORK WITH
ON MY PTSD ISSUES AND SOME OF THE OTHER
KINDS OF THINGS, MY MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES. THE FIRST ONE I FOUND
WAS A PSYCHIATRIST WHO IMMEDIATELY TRIED
TO BLAME EVERYTHING ON MY JESUIT EDUCATION. I THINK HE WAS
A DOMINICAN. OK? [LAUGHTER] IN ANY CASE, ALL RIGHT,
HE GAVE ME A DRUG I WAS SUPPOSED TO TAKE
IN THE MORNING AND ONE I WAS SUPPOSED TO
TAKE IN THE EVENING. WELL, I’VE SINCE LEARNED,
UM, YOU KNOW, THE ONE THEY GAVE ME
FOR THE EVENING DOES HAVE SUICIDAL IDEATION
AS ONE OF THE SIDE EFFECTS. SO…AND I WAS BEGINNING
TO FEEL LIKE A ZOMBIE, YOU KNOW. I COULDN’T REALLY
FUNCTION WELL. UM…BUT I DID.
I LEFT HIS CARE, AND I DID FIND, FORTUNATELY,
UM, A TRAUMA PSYCHOLOGIST WHO ALSO HAPPENED TO BE
A GULF ONE VET, AND SO WE HIT IT OFF, AND WE STARTED WORKING
THROUGH STUFF. I HAD HOMEWORK TO DO, VERY SIMILAR TO SOME
OF THE PROGRAMS LIKE SEEKING SAFETY
AND WHATEVER. WHERE YOU ACTUALLY HAVE HOMEWORK
OUT THAT YOU HAVE TO DO ON A WEEKLY BASIS,
DAH DAH DAH. SO I DID THAT AND… MORE OR LESS
GOT BACK ON TRACK. ALTHOUGH, UM…I HAVE TO ADMIT
THAT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT REALLY HELPED ME OUT
PERSONALLY WAS HEAVY-DUTY EXERCISE. I AM A LONG-DISTANCE CYCLER.
I KNOW I DON’T LOOK LIKE IT, BECAUSE I DON’T RIDE
THE CENTURIES ANYMORE, BUT I RIDE THE 50-MILERS
A COUPLE OF TIMES A YEAR. AND THAT REALLY
HELPED ME. YOU’D GET THOSE ENDORPHINS
GOING AND STUFF. YOU KNOW, THE OLD ADAGE
ABOUT 23 MINUTES OF EXERCISE MAKES YOU FEEL–
OF HARD EXERCISE– MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
FOR 12 HOURS. YOU CAN DO THE MATH. ALL RIGHT. SO HERE
WE ARE NOW, 2016. AND I’M VERY, VERY HAPPY
THAT I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEND…TALKING WITH
DR. MAFFUCCI SEVERAL TIMES SINCE WE WERE INVITED
TO PRESENT. AND IT JUST TURNS OUT
THAT WE AGREED ON ALL 4 OF THOSE ITEMS
THAT JACKIE’S ALREADY MENTIONED, AND THAT IS WE NEED
TO DESIGNATE A CHAMPION, EITHER A PERSON–AND THERE ARE
SOME OF YOU IN THIS ROOM, IF YOU’RE WILLING
TO ACCEPT THAT MANTLE– OR AN ORGANIZATION
SUCH AS THE NATIONAL ALLIANCE, AND WE HAVE THE TWO CO-CHAIRS
OF THAT TODAY. BUT IT’S IMPORTANT
WITHIN THAT FRAMEWORK TO KNOW THAT IF WE HAVE THE–
IF WE UTILIZE THE ALLIANCE, THEN ONE OF THEIR FIRST TASKS IS
GONNA BE COORDINATING THEMSELVES BECAUSE THERE’S A LOT
OF PLAYERS INVOLVED. FOR EXAMPLE, ONE
OF THE WORK GROUPS– I’M ON THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE.
THAT’S WHY I CAN SAY THIS. OK? ONE OF THE WORK GROUPS
WAS INVOLVED IN MEDIA. HOW DOES THE MEDIA–
OR HOW SHOULD THE MEDIA PRESENT STORIES
ABOUT SUICIDE WHERE THEY’RE NOT
SENSATIONALIZED, OK, BUT YOU FEED THE PUBLIC
SOME INFORMATION THAT THEY CAN USE TO MAKE THEM
THINK ABOUT THE ISSUE. GREAT STUFF.
GREAT STUFF. BUT YOU STILL SEE
STORIES IN THE MEDIA IN THAT EXACT FASHION. SO THE WORD HAS NOT
GOTTEN OUT, OK? AND I LEAVE THAT UP
TO THE ALLIANCE GROUP TO FIGURE OUT A WAY
HOW WE CAN DO IT AS COST-EFFECTIVELY,
HOW WE CAN DO IT. THERE ARE SEVERAL INVESTIGATIVE
JOURNALISM PROGRAMS AROUND THE COUNTRY. THAT’S ONE SUGGESTION
I CAN MAKE. UM…ALL RIGHT. UM…
SO THOSE WERE TWO OF THE THINGS
THAT JACKIE TALKED ABOUT. UM…THE CDC REPORTING THING
AND THE IT BUSINESS– WE REALLY NEED
TO PUSH FOR THAT. WE NEED TO UPGRADE, OK,
THE DATA COLLECTION AND ESPECIALLY
THE REPORTING AND STUFF. I MEAN, WE’RE DEALING WITH DATA
FROM 3, 4 YEARS AGO. I ALSO AM A DATA FREAK. AND IT’S LIKE I HAVE TO
PREFACE REPORTS, PRESENTATIONS BEFORE CONGRESS
BY SAYING, “THESE DATA ARE TWO YEARS OLD.
THEY’RE 3 YEARS OLD.” WE NEED TO IMPROVE THAT. SO I CALL UPON
THE TECH FOLKS IN HERE TO WORK WITH THE CDC,
AND IF WE NEED TO GO DOWN… DOWN THE STREETS HERE
TO PUSH FOR INCREASED RESOURCES, THEN LET’S DO IT. UM… JACKIE MENTIONED ELEVATING THE
VA SUICIDE PREVENTION OFFICE, AND I CAN ONLY SAY THAT
VVA SUPPORTS THAT 100%. INCREASE THE RESOURCES
AND PERSONNEL FOR THE JOINT SUICIDE
DATA REPOSITORY OFFICE. OK? IT’S BADLY, BADLY NEEDED.
ALL RIGHT? UM…ONE THING I DIDN’T
MENTION TO JACKIE IN OUR TALKS– I GUESS I DID. UM, SHE DIDN’T MENTION IT,
BUT I WILL. AND THAT IS,
USE A LITTLE DARK HUMOR WHEN YOU’RE TALKING
ABOUT THIS ISSUE, OK, BECAUSE VETERANS…
VETERANS UNDERSTAND THAT STUFF. IN FACT, THERE ARE
A COUPLE OF PROGRAMS AROUND THE COUNTRY THAT
THEY DO THAT VERY THING. THEY HOW THESE COMEDIC,
SORT OF COMEDIC SITUATIONS, BUT THE PERSON
AT THE CENTER, OK, IS TELLING YOU,
GIVING YOU INFORMATION, THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
ABOUT DEPRESSION, ABOUT POST-TRAUMATIC
STRESS DISORDER, THAT SORT OF THING. AND THERE’S LITTLE THINGS,
ICONS AND STUFF, THAT YOU CAN…PUNCH ON, AND YOU GET ALL
THE INFORMATION YOU NEED. SO USE SOME DARK HUMOR
ON OCCASION IN MENTAL HEALTH MESSAGES. AND THEN LAST
BUT NOT LEAST, IT WAS MENTIONED
EARLIER THIS MORNING ABOUT RECRUITMENT OF…
OF MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS. WHAT I’D LIKE
TO SUGGEST IS, IN ADDITION TO THOSE EFFORTS
THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN MADE, UM…THERE IS
A VA INITIATIVE, OK? RIGHT NOW, IT’S REALLY
AN INITIATIVE. IT’S SORT OF STILL
DREAMLIKE. BUT WE CAN TURN IT
INTO SOMETHING REAL, AND THAT’S TAKING PLACE
IN ILLINOIS. IT’S THE “GROW
YOUR OWN” PROGRAM, AND THAT IS, IT’S A PIPELINE,
OR A PROPOSED PIPELINE, FOR HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS
USING FOLKS WHO HAVE SPENT
THEIR MILITARY CAREERS AS EITHER MEDICS
OR CORPSMEN. THESE FOLKS
WANT TO HELP PEOPLE. GIVE THEM AN OPPORTUNITY. AND IT NEEDS TO START,
FOR MY DOD COLLEAGUES IN HERE, IT NEEDS TO START WHILE THEY’RE
STILL IN THE SERVICE. THE ONLY THING
THAT WAS SAID TO ME WHEN I WAS
MUSTERED OUT WAS, “DOC, IF YOU CAN’T
MAKE IT ON THE OUTSIDE, YOU CAN ALWAYS COME BACK AND GET
SHOT AT WITH THE MARINES.” GREAT. OK? SORRY. MY MARINES
WERE MY MOST IMPORTANT… THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
IN MY LIFE 50 YEARS AGO, AND VETERANS ARE STILL THE MOST
IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE NOW. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. AND I DON’T WANT TO STAND
IN THE WAY OF ANYBODY’S LUNCH. [APPLAUSE]

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