The Pentagon has named a new director for its Defense Department Suicide Prevention Office.

DoD announced late Monday that Keita Franklin — the former chief of the Marine Corps' behavioral health branch — has replaced Jackie Garrick as director. Garrick has served as either acting director or director of the office since 2011.

The DoD release gave scant details about the new appointment, other than to praise Franklin's credentials and say the position is now a career senior executive service post, "reinforcing the department's commitment to decreasing the incidence of suicide and increasing resiliency across the armed forces."

"I am very pleased to have Dr. Franklin take the lead in this very important mission," Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness Jessica Wright said of Franklin, who holds a doctorate in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University.

DoD established the Defense Suicide Prevention Office in 2011 to oversee development and implementation of suicide prevention programs within the department and military services.

Garrick came into the job just as the issue was cresting at the Defense Department. In 2012, the number of active duty military suicides hit a record of 352. That number declined to 286 in 2013 and remained steady in 2014 at 288, according to preliminary data furnished by the Defense Department.

The suicide rate among active-duty U.S. military personnel also declined in 2013, to roughly the same rate as the civilian population adjusted for similar demographics.

The 2013 Defense Department Suicide Event Report shows the suicide rate for troops on active duty in 2013 was 18.7 per 100,000 population, down from the 2012 rate of 22.7 per 100,000.

Under Garrick's direction, the Defense Department Suicide Prevention Office was tasked with reviewing and analyzing the department and military services' multiple behavioral health and suicide prevention programs to determine their effectiveness.

It also developed outreach programs designed to reach troubled troops outside traditional psychiatric care and introduced peer-to-peer counseling programs as well as education programs to teach service members, family members and friends to recognize the warning signs of suicide.

Before working for the Marine Corps, Franklin supervised family programs at the installation and regional levels for the Army and Air Force.

Patricia Kime is a senior writer covering military and veterans health care, medicine and personnel issues.

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