SAMHSA Initiative:  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Challenge to Prevent Suicide among SMVFs

Earlier this year, the Service Members, Veterans, and Families (SMVF) Technical Assistance Center (TAC), funded by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), selected the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to participate in the Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among SMVF.  Co-led by Janene McGee, Division Director of Veterans Services for Mecklenburg County, and Dr. Nicole French, Clinical Director at Veterans Bridge Home and Army Reserve Psychologist, the SMVF Suicide Prevention Workgroup was tasked with examining and developing a map of crisis services and identifying ways to reduce Veteran suicide in the broader community. The SMVF Suicide Prevention Workgroup consists of representatives from diverse organizations and agencies, including the VA, NC Department of Health and Human Services, Atrium Health, Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, NC National Guard, the 145th Air Wing Air National Guard, the American Red Cross, Veterans Bridge Home, Family Preservation Services, Stop Solider Suicide, Novant Health, DoD-Medical Command, Mecklenburg County VSO, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Habitat for Humanity, HUGS (Healing and Understanding of Grief from Suicide), and Visionary Physical Therapy and Wellness.

In June, SAMHSA TAC provided the group access to experts across the nation, resources, and seasoned facilitators to assist the group in developing a Sequential Intercept Crisis Map. In July, this group developed an action plan with additional support from the SAMHSA TAC.  Both the Sequential Intercept Crisis Map and action plan are living documents that will evolve as dots are connected between existing and growing resources in this community. The August meeting further cemented the group, culminating with a group vision statement:  All who have served will thrive, knowing they belong and where to go to find hope rather than choosing suicide.

Over the next several months the SMVF Suicide Prevention Workgroup will continue to meet as a large workgroup as well as meet within subcommittees to tackle action items aligned with the NC Suicide Prevention Plan. For more information, contact Janene McGee at (980/314-1901; or Dr. Nicole French at (980/999-2311;


September is National Suicide Prevention Month! Consider taking one or all of these actions to increase awareness of this complex public health problem and arm our community with education and resources:


From left to right: Cheri Anthony, Suicide Prevention Director at Salisbury VA; Yomira Rodriguez, Care Coordinator at Veterans Bridge Home; Deborah Shumate, Healing and Understanding Grief from Suicide (HUGS); Alice McKinley, Healing and Understanding Grief from Suicide (HUGS); Jasmin Brandow, SAMHSA Facilitator; Conicka Wiggins, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Salisbury VA; Chevaun Swint, Case Manager with the NC National Guard; Ryan Wagers, Chaplain at Salisbury VA; Shadale Jacobs, Access Supervisor at Cardinal Innovations; Michael Sumner, VA HUD-VASH Program Social Worker; Shanyn Aysta, Peer Support Supervisor at Salisbury VA; Janene McGee, Director of Veterans Services for Mecklenburg County; Lindsey Weston, Sexual Assault  Response Coordinator at the Air National Guard; Margaret Kinney, American Red Cross Volunteer; Deb Volkmer, OEF/OIF Transition Program Supervisor at Salisbury VA; Diane Weekly, Veterans Bridge Home; Charles Gunter, CIT Officer with CMPD; Jim Wuelfing, SAMHSA Facilitator; Nicole French, Army Reserve Psychologist, MEDCOM; Thomas Jacobs, Care Coordinator at Veterans Bridge Home; Rachel Rebich, Operations Director, Outpatient Clinics, Behavioral Health Charlotte, Atrium; Laurie Whitson, Cardinal Innovations. (Not Pictured: Joe Yurchak, Family Preservation Services; Susan Robinson, NC Department of Health and Human Services; Keith Hotle, Stop Soldier Suicide; Jeff Smith, Military and Veterans Program at NC Department of Health and Human Services; Cindy Swinkels, Coaching into Care at Durham VA; Shawn Overcash, Behavioral Health Program Manager at Novant Health; Nakia Savage, Habitat for Humanity Family Selection Manager; Jim Monaghan, Director of Psychological Health Air National Guard; and Brandy Lang, Visionary Physical Therapy and Wellness).