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Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond is battling veteran suicide.

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Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond takes on veteran suicide

2018 saw the most veteran suicides ever, records show.

Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond, a first-term Republican serving the Beaches, is already making an impression.

Diamond has been outspoken on issues of the day like the proposed school sales tax (he’s a skeptic as the proposal currently is constructed), but he’s also addressing issues that unfortunately are timeless.

One such concern is veteran suicide. Diamond has been a staunch advocate of the PAWS Act, which would fund service dogs for vets who need them.

Diamond, whose K9s for Warriors non-profit is leading the way when it comes to helping veterans who have PTSD and related post-service adjustment issues, has been especially vocal on this issue, and for good reason.

As the Washington Examiner noted last week, rates are spiraling in our second decade of extended Asian deployments. 2018’s 325 veteran suicides is a record.

Some groups are more susceptible to the urge: Veteran suicides are predominately white males who have been deployed. Nearly half had behavioral health diagnoses. And nearly half reached out for help within the 90 days before the final act, an indication of how the suicidal impulse surges and pulls back before that ultimate decision.

Diamond, who has been an advocate for veterans his entire political career, noted that the PTSD crisis is the main driver.

And driving PTSD? Multiple deployments, says the Councilman, with some people being sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan as many as six times.

And there’s no opting out. Diamond says, “the military culture is to be with your battle buddies. You’re not going to let down your family. They want to serve.”

However, the trouble compounds after their time of service is done, with the VA obstructing treatments beyond those recommended by Big Pharma.

“Pills, pills, and more pills,” is how Diamond sums up the VA approach to veterans with PTSD, with the agency looking to downplay that diagnosis.

Pharmaceuticals may work for one in six veterans who need help with these post-battlefield issues. But the rest, Diamond says, who could benefit from therapies ranging from talk and acupuncture to service animals, are underserved by the model.

It’s a model driven, says Diamond, by political patronage.

“The pharmaceutical industry donates massive amounts of money to both parties,” Diamond said. “The VA is one of its greatest customers.”

In that context, Diamond contends the agency is trying to actively stop legislation that would help with therapies like service dogs, for vets who have experienced PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, or sexual abuse in the service.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee is no help. They are “fully engaged,” said Diamond, with “VA bureaucrats.”

With federal solutions foreclosed currently, Diamond’s K9’s for Warriors is getting state funding (but nothing from the city of Jacksonville, he added).

The Councilman is looking to use the levers of government to move policy. A five-county Veterans Suicide Task Force is in the conceptual stage.

The goal: to reduce incidences of veteran suicide regionally, with an eye toward exportable solutions.

With D.C. standing in the way, action on this issue must be local, Diamond reckons.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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