Veteran suicide awareness on campus

Veteran suicide nationwide has increased from 22 to 27 veterans daily, according to the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA).

In Wisconsin, the WDVA estimates, from 2007-2011, 680 veterans died by suicide.

In an effort to tackle this issue, a program called Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) was created by the WDVA Zero Suicide Initiative. The goal of the program is to offer training to prevent veteran suicide in Wisconsin. QPR was brought to UW-Whitewater Nov. 9 in honor of veterans week.

“Awareness doesn’t solve the issue,” Ryan Lonergan, an outreach specialist for the WDVA said. He said suicide awareness is often spoke about, but there’s not a lot of talk of prevention and intervention.

Lonergan is a former UW-Whitewater student and Wisconsin Army National Guard veteran. He wanted to bring QPR to the university because there was very little talk of suicide on campus while he was a student here, he said.

He started helping veterans in 2012 after he felt military support was lacking during his transition back into civilian life. “I didn’t want another veteran to go through the same transition that I went through,” Lonergan said.

He said at first helping veterans was his passion, and now it’s a career. He hopes QPR will be a regular training program for UW-Whitewater.

Lonergan said asking for help is one of the biggest issues veterans have. “The warrior mentality of a veteran is that we’re built up to be these warriors, and warriors don’t ask for help,” he said.

William Breyman is a UW-Whitewater student and Air Force veteran. Breyman said suicide awareness is good for those who have veteran friends or family members because many veterans already get that kind of information in the military. He described it as “beating a dead horse.”

The more people, who are not veterans, who talk about veteran suicide awareness highlights the issue and creates more avenues for veterans to get help, Breyman said.

The Coordinator of Veterans Services for UW-Whitewater, Richard Harris, said veterans helping veterans is very important because there’s certain things only veterans can say to each other.

“A lot of people don’t help because they don’t know what to say,” Harris said.

Hearing stories from veterans who contemplated committing suicide was his biggest learning lesson from working on campus, he said. Harris said he never understood why someone would commit suicide until he listened to other veterans’ stories and understood why they came to that conclusion.

Some wanted to commit suicide to escape pain, he said.

The Campus Assessment, Response and Evaluation Team (CARE Team) is a program that supports students with mental health issues and helps students in crisis. CARE Team Case Manager Andy Browning said his main goal, for students, is let them know there’s support for them on campus so they can achieve their academic and professional goals.

Browning spoke of the possibility of implementing an intervention program like QPR, or a similar program, on campus to train faculty and staff.
To learn more about QPR or the WDVA visit their website:

Jefferson County Board proposed budget meeting


The Jefferson County Board had a public hearing on the proposed 2018 budget on Tuesday that includes an increase of $289,155 in the property tax levy. The recommended county tax levy is 27,357,982 compared to the 2017 levy of 27,068,827. The total tax levy is $29,325,606.

During the public hearing no one came forward to comment on the proposed budget.

The total budget is $72 million and, other than taxes, much of the funding is supplemented from state and federal grants, said Chair of the Finance Committee Dick Jones. The Human Services department receives a big chunk of the budget with a 2018 expenditure of $24,114,053, a slight decrease from this year.

The county tax levy doesn’t include the Health Department or the Library System, however, it does include $1,134,018 of debt.

The debt comes from the building of a new Highway Shop that cost $16 million, County Board Chairman Jim Schroeder said. The Highway Shop is set to be paid off in 15-20 years, Schroeder said.

“Traditionally this has been a county that doesn’t take on high levels of debt,” Schroeder said.  He said the county was debt free for almost a year, and the current debt is used towards a long-term structure, the shop, and not as a source to pay the bills.

“We like to think the county’s in good shape financially,” Jones said. The county has three months of working reserve and a contingency fund, money or securities set aside to cover unexpected losses. The county also budgeted a contingency fund for retirements and sick leave.

If adopted, the budget will include a lower property tax rate of 4.16. This would be a decrease of 3.17 percent from the 2017 rate. Meaning, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would owe $416 in property taxes.

The equalization value, the value of all taxable property in Jefferson County, increased at $6,575,416,500  from the 2017 equalization value of 6,299,618,300. While the mill rate decreased, property values went up, so property taxes could be higher for some people, Jones said.

There’s also a projected increase of sales tax revenue from $5,841,031 in 2017 to $6,175,000 next year, according to the Jefferson County website.The Sales tax in Jefferson county is  ½ of 1 percent. Sales tax provides an extra source of income for the county, Jones said.

Schroeder also shed some light on the county’s strategic financial plan.  “The only way we’ll be able to sustain county operations and continue to provide the services we provide today is if we develop,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder described the county as having a strong tradition of agriculture and that the county has been “anti-development”.

“There has to be a balance between that preservation of agricultural land, and other green space, with well thought-out, common sense development,” Schroeder said. “That’s going to bring more revenue into the county, provide more jobs, and we’ll have more people paying taxes.”

The County Clerk’s office includes a substantial budget increase of $171,743 for 2018. This increase is the result of extra staffing costs and new standardized voting machines across the county to increase efficiency, Finance Director Marc Devries said.

The County Board will have its final vote on the budget on November 14 at 7 p.m. at the Jefferson County Courthouse.