New Jersey VA recently partnered with the Bergen County Rise Suicide Prevention Coalition, Catholic Charities, and the Bergen County Division of Veterans Services to distribute more than 150 gun locks throughout Bergen County.

The effort is a part of VA’s ongoing Suicide Prevention 2.0 campaign. Over 428,000 Veterans reside in New Jersey. Bergen County is home to more than 25,000 of them.

“Creating opportunities for Veterans, service members and their families to have better storage practices can help make their homes safe and, in turn, save lives,” said David Pearson, assistant director of Veteran Services at Catholic Family & Community Services and a Bergen County Rise Coalition member.

Safe home environment significantly reduces the likelihood of death by suicide

Homes safer with firearms stored safely

Creating a safe home environment for those experiencing suicidal thoughts can significantly reduce the likelihood of death by suicide. Even if you or someone you know is not at risk for suicide, homes are safer when firearms are stored safely and locks are used.

This is why VA New Jersey Health Care System is working with communities to promote lethal means education and access to resources on safe storage practices.

“These simple cable locks are free and make safe firearms storage accessible for many more people,” said Martha Rodriguez, Suicide Prevention Community Engagement and Partnership coordinator. “I am proud to be a part of the Bergen County Rise Coalition and the great work we’re doing together.”

Through this initiative, anyone who receives a gun lock will also receive an educational brochure that provides information about firearm safety and reducing access to other household risks. The goal is to help ensure everyone is safe at home.

Coming together as a community

“We are proud to come together as a community,” said Shaun Hutchinson, a Veteran and acting director of Veterans Services at the Bergen County Department of Human Services. “We want the community to know that if we work together to safely store items that can be used to harm oneself – such as firearms and medications – then we can potentially prevent a Veteran suicide from occurring. We must never stop caring and doing everything we can to improve the lives of Veterans and their families.”

The coalition also encourages mental health professionals, health care providers, social service professionals and others who work with people at risk for suicide in Bergen County to participate in CALM:  Counseling on Access to Lethal Means.

This course is offered for free through the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. It focuses on reducing access to the methods people use to take their lives.

Learn more about lethal means safety here: VA Lethal Means Safety.

By Dave Brimmer is an Army Veteran and coordinator of the Community Outreach Program

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Published on Apr. 1, 2022

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One Comment

  1. DONALD Alan Powers April 6, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    I am a veteran of Vietnam & Desert Storm & Desert shield. I am will and available to help !

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