Gov. Steve Beshear on Wednesday announced that a team of Kentucky officials will try to find ways to help military service members, veterans and their families with substance abuse and mental health challenges.
Kentuckians representing various areas of military or health care expertise will work with officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Beshear's office said.
Kentuckians will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to work 2½ days with similar groups from several other states in a program known as the Returning Service Members, Veterans and Families Policy Academy, the news release said.
Although the news release did not point to the problem of military suicides, such deaths have been a continuing problem nationwide and in Kentucky. U.S. Army officials recently told the Herald-Leader that during the first six months of 2012, a reported 11 active-duty Army soldiers stationed in Kentucky died by suicide, with a total of 56 since 2009.
Task force members include Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky adjutant general; retired Col. David Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs; State Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville; and representatives from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, military and civilian health facilities, and the Kentucky court system.
The goal of Beshear's task force is to strengthen statewide behavioral health care systems and services through ongoing support among local, state and federal agencies and officials, according to the news release.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates about 335,000 veterans live in Kentucky. About 45,000 active-duty military personnel and about 8,400 members of the Kentucky Army National Guard and Kentucky Air National Guard also live in the state.