COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – The veterans’ suicide rate is significantly higher compared to South Carolina’s general population, according to state leaders.

Governor Henry McMaster, the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and others met for the 2022 Governor’s Summit on Veterans’ Affairs in downtown Columbia Thursday. They discussed various issues facing the state’s veteran population and their families, what’s been done to address those problems and highlighting programs they say are making a difference.

According to the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs, reducing veteran suicide is one of their top priorities.

Officials say firearms account for about 75% of veteran deaths in South Carolina. In response to this, they’ve worked to get more gun locks to veterans and their families for lethal means prevention. There have also been efforts to enhance mental health screenings across the state.

The latest data shows South Carolina’s veterans suicide rate is 30.3 per 100,000 people.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs says 85% of their staff and county veterans’ affairs officers have completed suicide intervention training.

Secretary William Grimsley said they are so many factors tied to suicide prevention. “If you really start to think about how we align resources against identified needs, health promotion, education, employment, housing, food insecurity, all of those things if you do them right, contribute to the overall health conditions of a sound population.”

Other issues the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, along with their federal, state and local partners, hope to address in the coming year include expanding access to reliable transportation for veterans, homelessness, work to establish more veteran treatment courts.