The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) is pleased to announce the City of Dothan will serve 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).

The town hall is scheduled for Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. at the Dothan Opera House and is open to all Veterans, friends, and family in the Wiregrass region.

“We are grateful to have the City of Dothan and Mayor Mark Saliba serve as the first town hall site for Alabama’s Challenge,” said Alabama’s Challenge Co-Chair Kent Davis, who is also the Commissioner of the ADVA. “The Wiregrass region is a great example of Alabama’s pride in its military and Veterans. We look forward to establishing a footprint and sustaining partnership with the City of Dothan and the surrounding communities and to continue serving those who have served us.”

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.

The town hall will feature a host of guests, including Mayor 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

“We are pleased that Dothan was chosen as the pilot site for the Alabama’s Challenge initiative,” said Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba. “We strongly support our Nation’s military and its Veterans. Veteran suicides, no matter how many, are tragic. We want to do everything that we can to bring light to this important issue and help to aggregate resources to assist those who are in crisis.”

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 and Veterans well-being resources by clicking here.