Bipartisan bill to help reduce and prevent veteran suicide heads to president’s desk for signature

Bipartisan bill to help reduce and prevent veteran suicide heads to president’s desk for signature
September is National Suicide Awareness Month. (Source: WAFB)

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — A bipartisan bill aimed at increasing veteran suicide prevention efforts and access to mental health services is heading to President Trump’s desk.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, around 20 veterans die by suicide each day, and only six of the 20 veterans receive healthcare services from the VA before their death.

The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, authored by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), is aiming to change that.

If passed into law, the act would provide additional resources to veteran-serving nonprofits to prevent and reduce suicides. It would encourage the VA to share information with those organizations and develop tools that would help monitor progress to see which programs are successful.

“The more resources we have that are veteran-specific, where we can treat them more intensely say than we might with a “typical” course of treatment... anything that ups the amount of care, I think would be helpful,” George Nipe, the senior manager for adult outpatient services for the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board, said.

The act includes provisions of the IMPROVE Well-Being Veterans Act, which would create a Department of Veteran Affairs grant program that would support veteran-serving nonprofits and other community networks to provide additional resources and expand their reach.

“Outside of just mental health, are we putting together programs that help veterans find employment or education? There’s more to mental health recovery than just the counseling. The more comprehensive you get, the better,” Nipe said.

Nipe said to move forward it is also important that we break the stigma surrounding mental health. “It’s OK to not be OK, and sometimes you need help to get through things, no matter how tough you are,” he said.

Nipe says expanding access to programs increasing awareness of those programs could go a long way in helping our veterans.

The VA’s healthcare system has same-day services in primary and mental health for veterans who need them. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health as a veteran, the VA encourages you to call their crisis line 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach trained professionals who are available to chat at www.veteranscrisisline.net. The lines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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