Natalie Kelly: Veteran sacrifices include wounds not visible to the eye; long-term mental health, substance use issues

Natalie Kelly- Head Shot copy
Florida has prioritized connecting veterans with the behavioral health services they need to lead healthy lives.

As we gather in our communities across the nation this week to celebrate our veterans on Veterans Day, we must recognize that – because of their fight for our freedom – many veterans carry issues with long-term mental health and/or substance use disorder.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2020, the suicide rate for veterans was 57.3% higher than that of non-veteran adults. Also in 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death among veterans under 45.

Florida is home to the third largest veteran population in the nation, and under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has prioritized connecting veterans with the behavioral health services they need to lead healthy lives.

Most importantly, anyone thinking about suicide should call 9-8-8, the national suicide hotline. Also, Florida has a behavioral health safety net system that connects Floridians, including veterans, with behavioral health providers–regardless of whether one is insured.

This safety net system consists of Florida’s seven behavioral health Managing Entities that work with a network of over 300 behavioral health care providers, delivering services to more than 300,000 of Florida’s most vulnerable residents, including children, expectant mothers, veterans and the chronically homeless.

Behavioral health providers within the network provide essential services, such as crisis stabilization, care coordination, housing, transportation and employment. Care coordination is critical and ensures that people receive various services to meet their unique needs.

While the echoes of marching bands fade away as Veterans Day parades end across the country, let’s commit to supporting our veterans every day of the year, not just on Veterans Day.


Natalie Kelly is CEO of the Florida Association of Managing Entities.

Guest Author


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