May 23, VCS in the News: VA Forms Suicide Panel in Response to Lawsuit

United States Department of Veterans Affairs

May 23, 2008, Washington, DC – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake today announced the names of members appointed to two special panels that will make recommendations on ways the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can improve its programs in suicide prevention, suicide research and suicide education.

“There is nothing more tragic than the death by suicide of even one of the great men or women who have served this nation,” Peake said. “VA is committed to doing all we can to improve our understanding of a complicated issue that is also a national concern.”

Membership in the first group, the “Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide Prevention in the Veterans Population,” will be comprised of government experts in various suicide prevention and education programs.  Those experts will come from agencies including the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The five-member work group is expected to meet from June 11-13, and will develop a report with recommendations for the Secretary within 15 days of meeting. 

The second group is a nine-member expert panel, made up of nationally renowned experts in public health suicide programs, suicide research and clinical treatment programs, that will provide professional opinion, interpretation, and conclusions on information and data to the work group.  It will also make recommendations to the work group on opportunities for improvement in VA’s programs. 

Secretary Peake initially announced the formation of the work group during testimony to the House Veterans Affairs Committee on May 6.

Members of the “Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide Prevention in the Veterans Population” include:

Cmdr. Alex E. Crosby, M.D., medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
Colonel Charles W. Hoge, M.D., director of the division of psychiatry and behavior services at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research;
Colonel Robert Roy Ireland, M.D., program director for mental health policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs;
Richard McKeon, Ph.D., special advisor for suicide prevention with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and
Jane Pearson, Ph.D., associate director for preventive interventions, National Institute of Mental Health.

Appointees to the expert panel include:

Dr. Dan Blazer II, professor of psychology at Catholic University of America;
Greg Brown, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania;
Martha Livingston Bruce, Ph.D., professor in clinical epidemiology and health services research at Weill Medical College of Cornell University;
Dr. Eric D. Caine, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Rochester;
Dr. Jan Fawcett, professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine;
Robert D. Gibbons, director of the Center for Health Statistics, University of Illinois at Chicago;
David Alan Jobes, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Catholic University of America;
Mark S. Kaplan, Ph.D., from Portland State University.  Member of the Suicide Prevention Action Network-USA National Scientific Advisory Council; and
Thomas R. Ten Have, director of the Biostatistics Analysis Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

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