The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) is pleased to announce the panelists who will speak to the Dothan community as the first stop on a statewide tour of town halls for the Alabama’s Challenge for Preventing Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) initiative.

The town hall is scheduled for Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. at the Dothan Opera House and is open to the public, including active-duty service members, National Guard, Reserve, Veterans, and their families.


The town hall will feature a host of guests, including Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba, U.S. Congressman Barry Moore, and Alabama Representative Neil Rafferty. Alabama’s Challenge Co-Chairs Paulette Risher and Kent Davis will provide an overview of the statewide initiative and a panel of community, state, and federal representatives will discuss their services and answer questions from the community. The panel will include:

  • Melissa Kirkland, SpectraCare Health Services
  • Dr. Paula Downie, Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare Clinic (Fort Rucker)
  • Commissioner Kent Davis, Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Beverly Johnson and Anthony Reynolds, Alabama Department of Mental Health
  • Anna Taylor, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
  • John Kilpatrick, Veterans Recovery Resources
  • Major Fe Nall and Major Adam Keller, Lyster Army Health Clinic (Fort Rucker)
  • David Duke, 211 Connects Alabama
  • Daniel Blackman, Disabled Veterans of America
  • Cheryl Dodson, Alabama Suicide Prevention and Resources Coalition

Alabama’s Challenge is a statewide effort to combat a continuing stigma Veterans face with mental health. While approximately 17 Veterans in the U.S. die by suicide per day, the Veteran suicide rate in Alabama is even higher than the national Veteran average and significantly higher than the national civilian average. Recently released data shows nearly 18% of those who died by suicide in Alabama in 2020 were Veterans, though only 9.1% of Alabamians have served. Male Veterans die by suicide at a rate 1.3 times higher than civilian counterparts, and for women Veterans it is 2.1 times higher.

Alabama’s Challenge is an initiative aimed to create an impactful, long-term outcome across the state as we continue fighting a stigma with mental illness. Raising awareness of suicide prevention can help us understand the cause and circumstances that lead to mental health issues. The ADVA is a lead agency within Alabama’s Challenge and assists with connecting with SMVF to provide information and knowledge about suicide, provide support, and provide resources and options to deal with PTSD and crisis situations.

You can learn more about Alabama’s Challenge by clicking here.