MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Wednesday, Governor Walz kicked off a tour aimed at helping Minnesota veterans and their families.

As WCCO’s Kate Raddatz shares, the governor is starting with a focus on veterans’ mental health.

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Governor Tim Walz toured the Minneapolis VA Medical Center Wednesday where he applauded the mental health and suicide prevention programs already in place.

“We’re talking about ways that we can partner together to reduce the number of veterans taking their own lives and use what we learn in that regard to expand that to the broader population,” Governor Walz said.

The Governor said state and federal partnerships will allow Minnesota to help provide care to veterans who may not qualify for federal benefits.

“When you’re in the military it’s pretty much a set schedule,” Bradley Legrid with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans said.

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The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans program administrator says addressing veteran suicide starts with prevention and understanding the challenges of life after war.

“When you get out that’s all gone and that’s a huge shift from one side of the spectrum to the other,”  Legrid added.

Legrid says homelessness is a major factor in veteran suicides, a point that Governor Walz echoed and said would be part of community outreach.

“I think for veterans not to reach out is pretty common practice and we need to extend our hand more,” Legrid said.

The Governor is preparing to send off 700 National Guard members overseas this weekend. He wants them to know their health is taken care of both there and when they return home.

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“To know the gratefulness of this state, that we appreciate what they do and to know that we made promises to them,” Governor Walz added.

Kate Raddatz