Effective June 1, Hero’s Bridge expanded its Battle Buddy services to include Northern Virginia and seven other counties throughout the Valley and Shenandoah regions. This effort was funded by a grant from the State of Virginia, Virginia Department of Veteran Services, intended to address the suicide rate among the Commonwealth’s veterans.
Hero’s Bridge Founder and CEO, Molly Brooks, states, “We are grateful for this support to expand our Battle Buddy program to more aging Virginia veterans. It is impossible to reduce suicides in the veteran population without considering the unique needs of our aging veterans.” She provides the following statistics:
- In 2020, 62% of Virginia veteran suicides occurred in veterans over the age of 55
- 50% of Virginia veterans are pre-9/11 serving veterans
- Men ages 85 and older have the highest suicide rate of any group in the country
- 18% of older veterans have recent substance abuse history compared to 1% of the older nonveteran population
- 17% of veterans had PTSD emerge for the first time later in life
Hero’s Bridge is the only non-profit organization that focuses exclusively on providing rapid and direct assistance to aging veterans. Although the organization does not provide mental health services, Battle Buddies naturally decrease suicide risk by providing companionship and solutions to the barriers older veterans frequently face. “Our purpose is to see that none of our senior heroes are living in social isolation, severely substandard living conditions, food insecurity, or battling substance abuse alone,” said Brooks.
The new Battle Buddy Call Center implements a dual-focused assessment that includes both quality of life and suicide risk. “We have found that organizations rarely consider both senior and veteran factors when conducting assessments. With the aging veteran population we serve, we have two distinct assessments to consider all factors affecting aging veterans,” said Brooks.
The suicide risk assessment asks such questions as Have you recently experienced a significant family disconnection or loss? Do you have chronic pain or a significant medical condition? Have you felt a lack of interest or a sense of purpose? These are questions that are not asked on widely used suicide assessments but are critical risk factors for those who are experiencing age-related life stressors.
The separate quality-of-life assessment considers home safety modifications, utility and sanitation issues, food insecurity, access to transportation, and income level, among others.
The Battle Buddy Call Center uses a blend of virtual contacts and technologies and is the first of its kind to offer one place where an older veteran can reach out for assistance tailored to their unique needs.
Hero’s Bridge hopes to receive enough support to continue to expand these vital services to more aging heroes across the country.
Hero’s Bridge® is dedicated to serving elderly veterans, aged 65 and older by bridging our veterans to a better quality of life through age-specific and innovative programs. These services are available to heroes wherever they call home, at no expense to them or their families. Learn more about Hero’s Bridge at www.herosbridge.org.