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Jeff Bates: Crisis line psychologist and Army captain’s career of service

Jeff Bates is a psychologist, the director of Crisis Operations at the Veterans Crisis Line and now a captain in the Army Reserve. He hails from a family with military history, including two grandfathers who served in World War II.

That history influences his thoughts on joining the Reserve: “This decision is one that impacts our whole family and I appreciate the support of my wife and boys. Any service comes with sacrifice and that sacrifice impacts families. Everyone who takes the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies takes that oath for themselves, but families and friends support that oath.”

Bates was sworn in on Feb. 15, as family, friends and guests looked on at the Veterans Resource Center in Ocala, Florida. Next up is the Direct Commission Course at Fort Sill and then the Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sam Houston. “If there is an opportunity to deploy to support our troops during my time in the Army, I would welcome a chance to serve.”

A career of service

His career has been a long and winding road of service, including seven years in the Bureau of Prisons specializing in suicide prevention, working with individuals with serious mental illness, and substance use issues.

One thing you lose for sure with a commission is the beard. Thirty years of facial hair gone.

He next joined the Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Ocala as staff psychologist and then the Gainesville VA Medical Center as the Psychology Training Program director and Coordinated Care Review Board chair. In that role, he was elected and served as the VA National Psychology Training Council Chair.

Bates considered his next position with the Office of Academic Affiliations as acting director for Associated Health Education his “dream job.”

“But I felt a call to join the mission to save lives at the Veterans Crisis Line” and moved to his current position.

His motivation to join the crisis line was, “To get closer to the front of our services to help the Veterans and service members who need us the most. The job is difficult, but it is easy to lay my head down at the end of a day or night knowing that the work we do makes a difference.” 

One purpose: Save lives

“Being on calls in the middle of the night and seeing 30+ people at all levels of VA—including SES folks—there for one purpose: save lives. It is hard to not be moved by the commitment of the people in this agency who answer the call,” he said.

And his message for Veterans?

“Thank you for standing in the gap so we can enjoy this great nation. Your willingness to serve is a model for who we should be. The Veterans Crisis Line is here for you if you ever find yourself or another Veteran or service member in crisis. You matter and we cannot let the darkest days win.”

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