By Reg Chapman

Minnesota Native son Denis McDonough made his first visit back home as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith invited him to see the groundbreaking work the Minneapolis VA is doing to combat the issue of veteran suicide.

McDonough spoke about how the work done there will serve as an example for VA hospitals across the country, and spent time speaking with veterans at the hospital.

“I want to come home because of a national tragedy we face,” McDonough said.

The Minneapolis VA is one of a handful of veterans’ hospitals across the country in a pilot program focused on reducing the number of veterans who take their own lives. McDonough says the hospital manifests the three core truths to prevent suicide.

“One, suicide is preventable. Two, that it will require a public health approach to prevent suicide. And three, that it takes all of us, not just veterans, not just the VA, but the whole community, the whole state to ensure that we prevent suicide,” he said.

The proof is in the numbers that point to a decrease of veteran suicides in Minnesota.

“Over the last five years in this region, we’ve seen a decrease in suicide as measured against the previous five years because of the clinical interventions,” McDonough said.

He pointed to the concerted follow-up after impatient care as key to the Minneapolis VA’s success. That plus its community based approach that has 40 community cooperation programs, 11 of those started during the pandemic, are reasons why Minnesota has a model program to reduce veteran suicide that will be shared with other VA hospitals across the country.