11/12/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Bright Spot - Governor’s Challenge

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Good Morning IDHS Staff,

Last week, in honor of Veterans Day, we were able to highlight our agency's commitment to hiring and training Veterans who have returned home with exceptional skills and talents that are valued and needed here in Illinois and at IDHS. Yesterday, as our country came together to celebrate and honor these Veterans, an average of 20 Veterans died by suicide. Of those 20 who died by suicide, 14 of them were deemed ineligible to receive services from the federal Veterans Benefits Administration.

Today, I have the privilege to share details about the Governor's Challenge, a non-traditional method to reach out to Veterans who are at high risk of dying by suicide and to offer them hope despite their tremendous suffering.

The Governor's Challenge is designed to educate community providers about addressing the unique needs of the Veteran population. Training on military cultural competency will be provided to first responders, emergency room personnel, hospital staff, community mental health centers and all other treatment venues. The Governor's Challenge also seeks to train community providers and businesses that are unfamiliar with using the Columbia Suicide Rating scale. In addition to the previously listed groups, training will also be targeted towards hotel staff, VFW halls, legion halls, and especially rural parts of Illinois where access to services are limited. While the program is designed to target Veterans, the public health approach will provide responders and partners with the training necessary to assist any Illinois resident who shows signs of being at risk of dying by suicide.

The Governor's Challenge will operate based on three (3) strategic priorities:

Priority 1: Assess and Screen for Suicide Risk

Priority 2: Promote Connectedness and Improved Care Transitions

Priority 3: Increase Lethal Means Safety

Launching this statewide initiative brought collaboration from many agencies and elected officials. The Illinois Governor's Challenge team is led by Dr. Teresa Glaze, from IDHS's Division of Mental Health. The team also includes participation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (National - Dr. Ed Landreth), Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, Illinois Hospital Association (Chuck Johnson), American Federation of Suicide Prevention (Steve Moore), IDHS's Division of Mental Health (Veronica Trimble, Nanette Larson, Doug Woods, Yolanda Linares), Illinois Department of Public Health (Jennifer Martin), Illinois Suicide Prevention Alliance, Illinois Joining Forces, Illinois National Guard, Dry Hootch, the Safer Foundation, and Alt Healing Environments.

Thank you to the many Veterans who serve across IDHS and our fellow State agencies, and thank you for sharing your experience with us. We are here to support you, and will always stand by you during times of darkness - just like you did for us.

Thank you,


Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS