Northeast Florida Fire Watch Council Improves Support Resources for Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns County Veterans

The Council awards $95,500 in grants to 9 area organizations serving the veteran community

November 4th, 2021-Jacksonville, FL–  Just days ahead of Veterans Day 2021 and the organization’s own 2-year anniversary, the Northeast Florida Fire Watch Council has announced that it has awarded $95,500 in grants to nine local organizations serving veterans in crisis across Northeast Florida. Organizations in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties will receive awards.

No part of Northeast Florida is untouched by the tragedy of veteran suicide. The rate of veteran suicide in the region from 2010 to 2019 was 31.6 (per 100,000 veterans), which was on par with national numbers. The rate of Northeast Florida civilians during the same period was half that, or 16.0, which is also consistent with national numbers. This means that U.S. and Northeast Florida veterans are losing their lives to suicide at a rate nearly twice that of their civilian counterparts.

The Northeast Florida Fire Watch Council was created in 2019 to end this tragedy. “The Fire Watch has two primary objectives,” says Executive Director, Nick Howland. “The first is to build a life-saving network of Northeast Florida community members trained to identify the warning signs of veterans in crisis and to direct those veterans to the resources they need. The second is to ensure those resources are best-in-class. Our Grant Program is designed to do just that – improve support and crisis care resources for Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns county veterans and their families.”

The nine organizations receiving grant funds include Northeast Florida Women Veterans, Operation Barnabas, the Veterans Council of Nassau County, Five STAR Veterans Center, the St. Johns County Veterans Council, Operation New Uniform, Hope Therapy, VVA Chapter 1143 (Baker County Veterans), and Community Hope Outreach. The grant program, including its policies, selection criteria and funding rules, was developed under the supervision of the City of Jacksonville’s Office of Grants and Contracts Compliance Department.

Northeast Florida Fire Watch Council Chair Brigadier General (ret) Michael Fleming states, “These nine amazing partner organizations were chosen for their core missions and their unwavering commitment to helping end veteran suicide across Northeast Florida. The grant funds will be used to address the warning signs and symptoms that lead to a veteran crisis, proven by the data. In this way, the Northeast Florida Fire Watch Council’s Grant Program strengthens services to our heroes and their families across our entire community.”

“Our region has among the highest concentrations of women veterans in the country,” says Northeast Florida Women Veterans Executive Director, Delores Quaranta. “Female veterans are 2.2 times more likely to die by suicide than females in general. This grant will allow us to expand the reach of our HERHealthyLife program, helping women make better choices for their personal and mental well-being.”

“Operation Barnabas helps veterans struggling with PTSD, addiction, and family and marital issues, all of which are warning signs of veterans in crisis,” says Operation Barnabas Executive Director, Raylan Heck. “Through this funding, we will help ‘Make Veterans Whole Again’ with additional emergency services to veterans in need, igniting a positive transformation in those striving to find purpose and meaning.”

“The partnership between The Fire Watch and Five STAR Veterans Center will allow us to immediately attack issues for veterans in crisis, ensuring that each veteran understands that we have the watch,” says Colonel Len Loving, USMC Retired and CEO of Five STAR Veterans Center.

The Northeast Florida Fire Watch Council is our community’s fight to end veteran suicide. It’s time for our community to join the fight.  You can learn more about us by visiting: Who We Are and What We Do.