On Tuesday, a veteran patient at a Veterans Affairs clinic in Austin Texas, reportedly shot and killed himself in the waiting room in front of “hundreds” of people.
- The incident at the VA Austin Outpatient Clinic reportedly took place in the waiting room, in front of “hundreds of witnesses” J.D. Simkins reported for Military Times.
- Some patients were unaware that anything was amiss, with KXAN, a local Austin MSNBC news affiliate reporting that a group therapy session continued for “nearly an hour” before patients realized what had happened. “All of a sudden, over the intercom, they have this statement about everyone must clear the building including staff, so it was a little surprising,” Ken Walker, a patient there, told KXAN.
- “Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones affected by this untimely death,” Deborah Meyer, a spokesperson with the Austin VA clinic told Task & Purpose. “Due to patient privacy concerns, we will not be discussing the specifics of this case. Any time an unexpected death occurs, we review our policies and procedures to see if changes are warranted.”
- Though the VA prohibits firearms on their grounds, the Austin facility doesn't have metal detectors, according to KWTX 10.
- The facility will now be enforcing “100% bag checks until further notice,” Meyer told Task & Purpose.
- The clinic shut down Tuesday as investigators and local law enforcement were called in, KCTV 5 News reported. It has since reopened.
- Based on a VA fact sheet for veterans in the southern region of the United States, 530 Texas veterans committed suicide in 2016. In 2016 “the suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for veterans than for non-veteran adults, after adjusting for age and gender” according to a September, 2018 VA study that looked at national suicide statistics from 2005 to 2016.
- The Austin clinic is offering crisis counseling today, and Saturday April 13, 2019 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Representatives with the Veterans Crisis Line are available 24 hours a day by dialing 1-800-273-8255, and pressing 1 to talk to someone. Text messages can be sent to 838255 to connect directly with a VA responder.