(WPRI) — Earlier this year the Compact Act went into effect nationwide, allowing veterans in suicidal crises to go to any healthcare facility for help.

Three days later, a Veteran died by suicide in the parking lot of the VA Medical Center in Boston.

Since then, the Department of Veterans Affairs nationwide is hoping to get the word out about what’s available to veterans in hopes of saving lives.

“If you’re in crisis, go to the nearest emergency room. Don’t worry about the bill. We’ll take care of it,” said Larry Connell, Director of the Providence VA Medical Center.

“How do we get our arms around these guys? So we came up with a new methodology to try to move the needle down in Veteran suicides and that’s what the Compact Act is,” Connell continued.

The Compact Act means veterans no longer have to drive to a VA hospital, which could be hours away, for emergency mental health care — the VA is now going to reach them where they are.

“A Veteran, for example, prior to the Compact Act, might say ‘I don’t want to drive all the way up to the Providence VA Emergency Room.’ Well, now you don’t have to go to the Providence VA ER. You can go to Miriam Hospital or South County, and we’ll pay for it,” Connell explained.

Veterans don’t need to be registered or receive benefits through the VA to take advantage of this.

“Studies have shown that that loss of comradery when they’re with their teammates and now that’s gone when they get out of the military, so that sense of belonging is gone. They think that’s one of the big reasons, but the other reason that we’ve found in the VA is that 62% of veterans’ suicide that occur daily are done by veterans who are either not enrolled in the VA or have not been to the VA in over a year for their care,” Connell said.

The Compact Act became law in 2020 but was only just enacted on Jan. 17. It also requires the VA to report on its Solid Start Program, which checks in with veterans for the first full year they are out of the military.

“Veteran suicide has been the number one priority for both administrations,” Connell said.

In just the VA Providence, Connell said there are about 10,000 veterans enrolled for mental health services. They have 120 mental health providers, but they are always looking to hire more to meet the need.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, seek immediate help:

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Call, text or chat 988
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call (800) 273-8255
BH Link: Rhode Islanders can call 401-414-LINK (5465)
Kids’ Link RI: Parents can call 1-855-543-5465