Saturday, November 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.

The expansion would cost some $2 million, money that state lawmakers decided not to spend in their most recent session. By all indications, it would be a good investment ó a way to connect veterans with a sympathetic ear and improve the chances that theyíll follow up and seek help in their communities.

The year before, the Legislature did take the right step in allocating $400,000 to expand the veterans hotline statewide through the network of existing crisis services at the local level.

Now, when a veteran calls 1-844-MyFLVet or 2-1-1, he or she speaks with someone trained to provide immediate emotional support with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, relationship troubles and personal finances. The service is available 24 hours a day.

RELATED COVERAGE Some deal with pain of military suicide alone

Taking the next step and staffing the hotline with trained veterans promises to accomplish even more in bringing down the shocking number of former service members who take their own lives each day ó by some estimates, 20 to 22 nationwide.

Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is to be commended for launching its veteran-staffed crisis line in October 2014 to help former service members all across its service area ó Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco and Manatee counties.

The operation is a model for other communities and states seeking to help their veterans. And this is the place to get it right when it comes to easing the pain of military service.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2016, Hillsborough County had 98,307 veterans ó the most in Florida and an increase of more than 5,100 over 2015. No. 3 in the state was Pinellas County at 90,533.

As Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times has reported, suicide hit home in the 2016 year for some two dozen military families across Tampa Bay ó veterans and active-duty members alike. Itís impossible to say whether the smoother path toward help that a hotline can provide would have prevented any of them.

But those who work helping veterans support the hotline expansion as part of a wider array of services. Local advocates are helping push measures in Congress, too, that would require the Pentagon to do more earlier in helping service members transition back into a world where they must fend for themselves.

Finding job opportunities, education and emotional support during this transition is key to heading off the problems of post-traumatic stress and homelessness that can lead veterans to despondency.

Callers to the Tampa Bay area crisis line are seeking help with a range of needs, including employment assistance and navigating the often-daunting Department of Veterans Affairs health and benefits programs. But nearly two out of three called seeking help with behavioral health, and among this group, nearly one out of three said they were feeling suicidal.

A powerful symbol of the campaign to expand the hotline stands outside the entrance to MacDill Air Force Base ó a tapestry in billboard form placed by the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and made entirely of military gear donated by veterans. It carries a message: "You bring home more than your gear."

Itís part of a campaign called "Stitches of Duty," rooted in the work of veterans who are willing and able to help their comrades in need.

They deserve help in their cause from the broader community of people who benefit from the service of veterans. That includes all Floridians ó and their elected representatives in Tallahassee.

Comments
Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Your vote sends a message to our leaders that we value education.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Local referendums cannot make up for Tallahassee’s cuts.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Tampa's Riverwalk continues to grow into its own.This month, the American Planning Association named the linear park along the Hillsborough River through downtown Tampa as the winner of its "People's Choice" award. Part of the association's...
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

St. Petersburg’s proposed 5-cent fee on shopping bags could encourage better consumer habits.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Domestic violence carries a huge price tag in addition to the human toll.
Published: 11/15/18
Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

The Conviction Review Unit follows through on a campaign pledge to review past conviction cases.
Published: 11/14/18
Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott should stop making unfounded claims of voter fraud.
Published: 11/13/18
Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Hillsborough County scored a historic win this month when voters approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The $9 billion or more it will generate over the next 30 years should transform mobility across the region and impr...
Published: 11/12/18
Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

The state is taking action to minimize wrong-way crashes
Published: 11/11/18
Updated: 11/12/18
Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Three veterans depart, clearing the way for new faces
Published: 11/09/18
Updated: 11/12/18