Forums on veteran services scheduled for summer

Illinois veterans will have a chance to discuss their needs, particularly for mental health and other services, with state officials at two forums in the suburbs in June, a task force on veterans suicide announced on Tuesday.

"Right now this task force isn't about me, it's about listening to the veterans. We really truly would like legislation that the task force recommends to come from the veterans," said state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, an Oswego Democrat who spent four years in the Marine Corps.

The forums are scheduled at 10 a.m. June 14 at the College of Lake County and the same time June 15 at Waubonsee Community College.

Kifowit and state Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, are leading the task force that includes representatives from the Department of Public Health and Department of Veterans Affairs. It could report recommendations to the legislature as early as this fall.

The lawmakers say they hope to build on informal efforts by veterans like Alexandra Stokmann Brackett of Peoria to support each other in times of need.

Brackett owns a gym in Peoria, where says she welcomes fellow veterans. She says her staff provides information on services available to veterans and, more importantly, a sense of community.

"(We say) let me help you punch and kick things, firstly, get out some great aggression. But then also I'm going to give that sense of community that you had in a platoon," Brackett said. "Having that camaraderie again really helps some of the veterans feel at peace. And when you're at peace mentally and physically, you can start dealing with other issues."

An average of 22 veterans nationwide commit suicide every day, according to an estimate by a recent U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study. Veterans in need of mental health support can call the hotline at (800) 273-8255, text 838255, or visit

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Tom Cullerton
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