Thomas headshot April 2019.jpg

Thomas Winkel,

MA, LPC, NCC, Director

Arizona Coalition for Military Families

ACMF is a non-profit organization in Arizona that works with public and private partners to build the state’s capacity to support Arizona’s 500,000+ service members, veterans, and their families with a collective impact model that uses an upstream approach to suicide prevention. 

From the Desk of Thomas Winkel

Upstream Approach to Suicide Prevention

Each September during Suicide Prevention Month, there is a focused community-wide effort to highlight the importance of suicide prevention. The Arizona Coalition for Military Families and our partners have been working in Arizona since 2009 to identify ways to provide the right support and resources at the right time to any service member, veteran, and their families.

Our upstream approach means we seek to connect with people “upstream” before an issue or problem worsens into a crisis that can lead to suicide. We work to tackle the issues today so that they don’t turn into life-threatening situations that can cause people to think of suicide as an option.

Our approach is driven by data so that we are laser-focused on the actual needs of our Arizona service members, veterans, and their families. We tailor everything we do to anticipate and meet these needs as a way to save a life. This preventative stance informs all that we do, both from a service role to the community, as well as our year-round advocacy, policy, and research efforts.

In the same way that we continuously cultivate relationships with community resources to grow, expand and diversify our network of connections we leverage to help anyone who calls the statewide Be Connected program (866-4AZ-VETS), we also foster important connections for advocating for Arizona’s population. This may include working with our political leaders at the local, state, and national levels as well as partnering with public health agencies such as the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

We work with leading researchers at Arizona State University to gather data and discover insights to inform our work. Read on to learn about more of these important initiatives. We invite you to join us in our efforts by attending one of our upcoming events, becoming a resource navigator, and saving the date for our next Statewide Symposium taking place in Phoenix on April 19 & 20, 2023.

Recent Advocacy and Policy Work

Upstream Suicide Prevention

Suicide Mortality Review Team

In March 2020, in an effort to reduce suicide rates among Arizonans, Governor Ducey signed into law a measure, known as Jake’s law, to improve access to mental healthcare in Arizona, especially for youth and the uninsured. The law was named for 15-year-old Jake Machovsky who died by suicide in 2016 after his insurance company denied a request for mental health treatment. One aspect of the new law resulted in the creation of a Suicide Mortality Review Team in the Arizona Department of Health Services as well as a Suicide Action Prevention Plan.

As part of the Action Plan and in compliance with Jake’s Law, a Suicide Mortality Review Team was established for the state and counties.

Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services Director Col. Wanda Wright serves as part of the statewide Suicide Mortality Review Team. Arizona Coalition for Military Families Project Director Nicola Winkel, MPA, serves on the Maricopa County Suicide Mortality Review Team. These multi-disciplinary teams are charged with reviewing deaths by suicide and generating prevention recommendations. 

With Be Connected actively engaged in upstream prevention and risk reduction, it is anticipated that ACMF, ADVS and our partners will be actively involved in implementing some of the prevention recommendations generated by the teams to benefit Arizona veterans and families. 

Learn More

Beyond Suicide Prevention Month

Even though Suicide Prevention Month has come to a close, we'd like to continue to share resources for veterans. 

Let’s work year-round to smash the stigma. Suicide is a public health issue and each one of us has a role to play in reducing suicide. 

Suicide is preventable, and there is always hope. 

Some challenges are harder than others and sometimes people need a friendly glance, an invitation for a conversation, or even an offer of support. 

If you know a veteran who’s struggling, encourage them to reach out for help today. Share these resources that are especially for veterans that are available year-round:

Learn more about the variety of support available in Arizona for service members, veterans, and their families by visiting

New Billboard

If you are in central Phoenix near the VA Medical Center, keep your eye out for our new billboard on Indian School just East of 7th St. We want to make sure that anyone visiting the VA knows that Be Connected is just a phone call away at 866-4AZ-VETS (866-429-8387) for support and connection to resources. Special thanks to TriWest Healthcare Alliance for their partnership in providing this billboard to the Be Connected program.

Real Stories, Real Successes!

How Be Connected Helps Arizona Veterans

Supporting a Veteran's Widow

A New Place

A call came into the Be Connected support line, 866-429-8387, from a staff member of a Tucson-based cemetery. The staff member was asking for assistance for a grief-stricken widow of a veteran. She was in need of immediate help but she did not speak English.

Read How Be Connected Helped

A service member who was about to transition into civilian life due to his retirement from the military needed assistance. That’s when he connected with the Be Connected Career Navigation team. With a limited window of time, the Career Navigation team had to spring into action.

Read More About This Veteran's Success

Consumer Participation on Scientific Panels

The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ (CDMRP), Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) consumer advocate recently participated in the evaluation of research applications submitted to the PRMRP. ACMF Project Director Nicola Winkel, MPA, was nominated for participation in the program. As a consumer reviewer, Nicola was a full voting member (along with prominent scientists) at meetings to help determine how the $370 million appropriated by Congress for Fiscal Year 2022 will be spent on research.

Learn More

Upcoming Events

October 7     Veteran Retreat

October 8      Miltary & Veteran Women’s Experience

October 13    U.S. Navy Birthday

October 22    Veteran Stand Down - Lake Havasu City

October 26    Day of the Deployed

October 26    Resource Navigation Training

October 27    Navy Day

October 28    Arizona Veteran Supportive Campus Training

View More Events

Save The Date

The 2023 Statewide Symposium will return to an in-person event held once again at the Desert Willow Conference Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The event, taking place April 19-20, 2023, will be the 13th year that the Arizona Coalition for Military Families has hosted the Statewide Symposium. The focus remains the same – connecting with partners to strengthen how we collectively care for, serve, support, employ, educate and assist the more than 500,000 service members, veterans and military-affiliated family members who call Arizona home. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Learn more at

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The Arizona Coalition for Military Families works collaboratively with government agencies, community members, and partner organizations to form an Ecosystem of Support that Arizona's service members, veterans, and their families can access through the Be Connected support line, 866-4AZ-VETS, and Be Connected offers no-cost support and connections to resources and has trained more than 6,000 community members to provide resource navigation services.