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Lethal Means Safety Is Critical To Suicide Prevention Among Veterans


September 10, 2020

Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute Senior Analyst delivers testimony to the Congressional Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


Washington, D.C., 9/10/2020 – Russell B. Lemle, Ph.D., delivered testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs regarding the need to expand suicide prevention efforts through lethal means safety training and expanded mental health care. 

“In spite of large increases in the number of providers hired and visits furnished, the majority of facilities fail to meet the VA-required mental health staffing ratio,” said Lemle, regarding the difficulty meeting demand for mental health care. He also called attention to “the hesitancy to capitalize on what’s known about the relation of firearms access to suicide.” 

“Firearms are the means used in 7 out of every 10 veteran suicide deaths, yet safe storage counseling strategies that could save lives are underutilized,” said Lemle.

Lemle is a senior policy analyst at the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute and his expertise and counsel is relied upon by advocates across the mental health and veterans’ policy sector. He received the 2020 Special Recognition Award for Veterans Health Care Advocacy from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Lemle was formerly the Chief Psychologist at the San Francisco VA Healthcare System for 25 years, retiring in 2019.

During the hearing, Lemle provided analysis of various policies and programs designed to prevent veteran suicide, including the White House’s President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS), a report to which he consulted. Lemle has been outspoken about the need to address the role of access to  firearms in veterans suicide and recently published the article Veterans, Firearms, and Suicide: Safe Storage Prevention Policy and the PREVENTS Roadmap in the Federal Practitioner. 

“Firearm owners and veterans  must be part of the development of strategies and ideas,” said Lemle in a conversation published at “Veteran suicide prevention is a common cause. On a larger scale, we need to make safe storage an accepted cultural response of individuals who have an elevated risk of suicide.”

Click here to read his full testimony. 

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