Perfect First Step’: Veteran Suicide Prevention Task Force Coming to Oklahoma
KOKH - May 8, 2023 6:44 am
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — A veteran suicide prevention task force is coming to Oklahoma. Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bipartisan bill into law that would create a group of nine members.
State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants helped make this possible. He says he wants representation from around the state, so each member will be picked by someone different.
“I’m very, very, very passionate about doing all we can for those who fight for us,” Rosecrants said. “This started after having conversations with many veterans and veterans groups. I realized they want to move past awareness into concrete solutions.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 16 veterans nationwide die by suicide every day. It’s a situation Oklahoma lawmakers continue to monitor.
“We like to do a lot here,” Rosecrants said. “But we kind of don’t like to invest in money and stuff. So that’s why I thought, ‘You know what? The task force is a perfect first step. Let’s get folks on the same page at least.”
Gov. Stitt signed Rosecrants’ bill into law, which says the task force should meet no later than November 1, 2023.
“I want it to be ugly,” Rosecrants said. “I want the conversations to happen. ‘That’s not happening. This isn’t happening.’ Whatever. I want arguments. I want it to all come out at the other end as something that can really, really reduce the number of veterans who die by suicide here in Oklahoma.”
The legislation allows Stitt, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, House Speaker Charles McCall and minority leaders in the House and Senate a chance to pick a task force member.
“If you look at what the minority party represents, it’s the metropolitan areas. I wanted to make sure there was coverage in those areas.”
Other state agencies like the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services also get to choose a member.
“This puts a lot of folks under kind of one auspicious idea.”
The bill requires the group to submit their findings and recommendations to state leaders by late 2024.