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Overview

Together With Veterans (TWV) is a community-based program that partners rural Veterans and community agencies to prevent Veteran suicide in their communities. By joining forces as one team, both the Veterans and the community partners gain a better understanding of how to most effectively reach Veterans at risk. The first phase in the TWV process is forming a TWV Team that is led by Veterans and involves community leaders and agencies most likely to provide assistance with Veteran suicide prevention. A Coordinator guides the Team through completing the TWV process.

TWV Timeline
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2
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12
Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3
Phase 4
Phase 5

A. Prepare for Phase 1

Gather Data on Veteran Suicide

Before reaching out to Veterans and community agencies, the Coordinator will collect data about Veteran suicide. A key source of data is the VA State Suicide Data Sheet for each state. Other data can be sought through state public health or office of suicide prevention officials. This data establishes background information for Veterans and community partners to help them understand the importance of implementing Together With Veterans locally.

Identify Veterans

The TWV Team starts with Veterans. To initiate the program, begin by inviting Veterans to meet about Veteran suicide prevention. “Veterans” include all who have served in the United States Armed Forces, Army/Air Guard, and Reserves. Veterans of all ages and deployment eras are encouraged to participate. Veterans groups are welcome and may include Veteran organizations such as Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), the American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), among others. To help identify Veterans who may be interested and willing to provide guidance and leadership throughout the process, begin by reaching out to state and regional partners who are likely to work with and know Veterans in the community. Suggested state and local organizations to contact include, but are not limited to:

  • State Department of Military and Veteran Affairs
  • Non-VA suicide prevention Coordinator(s) in your state
  • VA state/regional suicide prevention Coordinator
  • Local VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC)
  • Veteran Service Officer
  • Local/Regional Veteran Center
  • Veterans Organizations

Maintain the Contact Spreadsheet (Pg. T-6) as a reference tool to track organization, email, and phone contact information of each individual involved in TWV.

Identify Community Partners

In addition to local Veterans, community service providers and other partners are key to building your team. Agencies and individuals who serve or come in contact with Veterans bring information about how the local service system works, what services are available to Veterans, and how Veterans connect to and use those services. Prior to meeting with Veterans, generate a list of possible partners. Be prepared to review this list with Veterans.

  • Health Care (at least one member required):
    • Public health agencies
    • Primary care
    • Behavioral health
    • Hospitals and emergency departments
  • Local, regional, and state political delegations
  • Law enforcement and dispatch
  • Faith communities
  • Local colleges
  • Army/Air Guard and Reserves
  • Local suicide prevention coordinator
  • Local suicide prevention Trainers

The TWV Coordinator should keep track of state and
local contacts who can be helpful in reaching out to
local Veterans. Maintain the Contact Spreadsheet
(Pg. T-6) as a reference tool to track organization,
email, and phone contact information of each
individual involved in TWV.

B. Meet with Veterans

Meeting Preparation

Use the Meeting Preparation Guidelines to:

  • Identify time and location for the meeting
  • Prepare logistics for the meeting
  • Send out an invitation using the Invitation Template for the meeting three to four weeks before date of the meeting
  • Prepare handouts of the VA and the completed TWV Program Summary Template
  • Prepare an Attendance Sheet using the Attendance Sheet Template (Pg. T-8)
  • Create an Agenda using the Agenda Template that includes the following topics:
    • Information about Veteran Suicide
    • Together With Veterans Program
    • Permission to proceed in the community
    • Community partners to invite
    • Decision-making process
    • Use the Introductory Meeting Talking Points Veterans (Pg. T-14) to prepare for discussing the information

Meeting with Veterans

At the initial meeting with Veterans, the Coordinator presents an overview of the Together With Veterans program, the mission of the program, and how the program will work in your community.

The Coordinator can use the VA State Suicide Data Sheet and TWV Program Summary Template as guides for discussion about Veteran suicide and the TWV Program. After a facilitated discussion and an opportunity to answer questions, ask the Veterans for permission to work in their community.

If permission is given, proceed to discuss what community members should be invited to be on the Team. Discuss an initial list of identified partners and discuss required membership of at least one health or behavioral health care provider.

Potential Team partners come from both traditional and nontraditional sources. Traditional partners may include Veterans service officers, Veteran serving-organizations, official community leadership, health care, social services, and first responders. Nontraditional partners are equally important and may include unelected community leaders who may not have any official organizational leadership position, champions of Veterans’ issues, Veterans and their family members, and representatives from social clubs and businesses.

Discuss how the Coordinator, Veterans, or others involved with TWV can assist in reaching out to potential community team members through phone calls or personal contact. Determine who will reach out to each contact and when this will be completed.

Briefly discuss the Steering Committee that will ultimately guide the local TWV Process. Ask for initial decision making and leadership preferences of the group. Questions to determine these could include:

  • How would you like to make decisions?
  • Who should be in positions of leadership as we develop the Steering Committee?

Document these responses and use the information to guide future actions.

C. Meet with Veterans and Community Members

Meeting Preparation

Use the Meeting and Activity Preparation Timeline to:

  • Identify the meeting time and location for the meeting
  • Prepare logistics for the meeting
  • Send out invitations for meeting three to four weeks before date of invitation
  • Prepare handouts of the VA State Suicide Data Sheet (Pg. T-10) and the completed TWV Program Summary Template (Pg. T-12)
  • Prepare to conduct the SWOT Analysis — See Phase 2
  • Prepare an Attendance Sheet using the Attendance Sheet Template (Pg. T-8)
  • Create an Agenda using the Agenda Template (Pg. T-7) that includes the following topics:
    • Information about Veteran suicide
    • Together With Veterans Program
    • SWOT Analysis (per Phase 2)
    • Decision-making process
  • Use the Introductory Meeting Talking Points Community (Pg. T-15) to prepare for discussing the information

Meeting with Veterans and Community Members

Use the VA State Suicide Data Sheet (Pg. T-10) and TWV Program Summary Template (Pg. T-12) to provide information about TWV and discuss how the program will be launched in their community.

Use the SWOT Analysis Guide from Phase 2: LEARN ABOUT YOUR COMMUNITY to conduct a SWOT Analysis.

Briefly discuss the Steering Committee and initial
decision-making processes.

D. Establish a TWV Steering Committee

Once the TWV Team is formed, the group will establish a core group of Veterans and partners to serve as a Steering Committee. Members of the Steering Committee will provide support, guidance, and oversight of the TWV Process in the committee. It is advised to include those with helpful skills and experience related to organizational development, public speaking, facilitation, budget, board process, or behavioral health care systems. Some communities opt to limit membership of the Steering Committee solely to Veterans, while other communities include non-Veteran community partners. Veterans must hold majority membership of the TWV Steering Committee.

See also Steering Committee under TWV Requirements and Guidelines.