Fairport resident helps raise $52 million for veteran suicide prevention

VA will provide funding to community groups across the United States

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – The Veterans Administration is set to donate millions of dollars to suicide prevention programs across the country.

Marine and Fairport Resident Joe Chenelly is the National Executive Director of “AMVETS”. In Washington, DC, he and others were able to help secure $52 million for community programs that will help veterans prevent suicide.

“We really believe that’s the answer, and certainly what we should try at this point, which has been a long-term suicide epidemic among our veterans,” Chenelly said.

In the United States, we lose approximately 17 to 22 veterans a day to suicide, a trend that has shown no signs of slowing for years. The VA’s approach to these funds is holistic.

“They offer comprehensive services, where they can help a veteran live their best life. So it’s not just about traditional talk therapy,” he said.

Much of it moves away from pharmaceuticals and teaches veterans skills in resilience. “How to manage their money, how to deal with relationship issues…really looking at overall quality of life,” Chenelly said.

Part of the funds could come to our region. Laura Stradley of the Veterans Outreach Center says the military is a tough environment and the transition to civilian life can be difficult.

“As a community, we need to do a better job of trying to make sure no one loses hope. Let them know there are resources available,” Stradley said.

She says there are many things community groups can do that the federal government, i.e. the VA, cannot. “Non-profit organizations like the Veterans Outreach Center, we will be applying for this funding.”

The VOC provides job training, employment assistance, legal advice, housing, and more to ex-military personnel.

Chenelly says providing more resources to places like the VOC and others across the country is the best chance of bringing 22 daily suicides down to zero.

“We think this may really be what we need to make real progress in the fight against suicide,” Chenelly said.

This funding is part of comprehensive mental health legislation that has been in the works for a year and a half in Washington. Individual veterans groups can get up to $750,000 each.