September 02, 2020

Chairman Takano Announces 10 New Bills to Be Considered At Hearing On Veteran Suicide Prevention

10 new bills cap off the Committee’s summer efforts & fold into comprehensive veteran suicide prevention legislation designed to meaningfully reduce veteran suicide

Press Contact

Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)

Miguel R. Salazar

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) announced 10 new bills introduced over the past week that will help complete the House’s companion legislation to S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.

 

These bills, many of which enjoy bipartisan support, would expand lethal means safety training, improve diagnosis and treatment for serious mental illness, ensure emergency room personnel institute safety plans and follow ups for at-risk veterans, streamline VA’s collaboration with outside researchers, assess the availability of mental health care providers, survey veterans and providers on appointment scheduling and help remove barriers to access for veterans, and address racial and gender gaps in suicide prevention programs and ensure their staffing plans take into account shifting demographics.

 

“This Suicide Prevention Month, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is ready to make real, meaningful change to prevent veteran suicide, and I’m so pleased to add 10 more bills to our growing list of comprehensive suicide prevention legislation,” said Chairman Mark Takano. “After listening to recommendations from mental health experts, veteran stakeholders, and the PREVENTS Task Force, we know what steps we must take to really make a dent in this crisis—we know that we need expanded lethal means training, a serious look at our mental health provider staffing, and better tools and research to support VA providers. At our upcoming legislative hearing, we’ll discuss these bills and more as the Committee takes action to pass a truly comprehensive veteran suicide prevention bill package, and I’m grateful that Members from across the caucus and across the aisle have come together to join us in this fight.” 

 

All 10 of these bills align with the Committee’s comprehensive seven pillar approach to address every angle, factor, and intersection that may lead to veteran suicide and will be featured at the Committee’s September 10th legislative hearing-- along with the 10 bills already introduced so far this summer. This work builds off the 16 bipartisan suicide prevention bills that have already passed the House during the 116th Congress. 

 

Earlier this year, the Committee adopted a comprehensive 7 pillar framework to address every factor that may leads to veteran suicide. Building on this strategy, Chairman Takano introduced the Veterans ACCESS Act—meaningful legislation that would ensure all veterans-- regardless of discharge status or whether they receive care at VA hospitals -- have access to the emergent mental health care they need. So far this summer, ten suicide prevention bills have been introduced to require outreach and mental health care to American Indians and Alaska Native veteransensure every VA has a Suicide Prevention Coordinator on staff,  increase access to virtual mental healthcareprovide peer support to veterans’ families,  expand VA telehealth careevaluate the effectiveness of VA’s REACH VET programreform VA Policeexamine VA’s Solid Start programimplement the Zero Suicide Initiative, and mandate suicide prevention training for community health providers

 

Ten new suicide prevention bills were introduced this week:

 

  1. The Lethal Means Safety Training Act introduced by Rep. Lauren Underwood (D- Ill.) will expand VA’s lethal means safety trainings for every employee or contractor that encounters veterans—a key priority for the White House’s PREVENTS Task Force. 
  2. The VA Serious Mental Illness Act introduced by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fl.) will help VA practitioners better diagnose and care for veterans with serious illness. 
  3. The VA Emergency Department Safety Planning Act introduced by Rep. Andy Levin (D- Mich.) and Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) will help ensure emergency room personnel are effectively implementing safety plans & follow-ups for at-risk veterans as well as address racial & gender disparities in suicide prevention programs. 
  4. The VA Peer Specialists Act introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) requires VA to analyze their staffing plan and adjust to the growing demand for women peer specialists.
  5. The VA Mental Health Staffing Act introduced Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) and Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fl.) will require VA to review its mental health staffing  plan and report any gaps to Congress with a plan to fix them--  research shows that VA mental health care is often superior to care veterans can find in the community.
  6. The VA Mental Health Counseling Act introduced by Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) will direct VA to develop separate staffing plans for two key new categories of mental health providers: licensed professional mental health counselors (LPMHCs) and marriage and family therapists (MFTs).
  7. The VA ECHO Act introduced by Rep. Joe Cunningham (D- S.C.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R- Ind.) will direct VA to survey veterans and VA providers about offering appointments outside of standard work week hours—removing the barrier to access for many veterans.
  8. The Testing, Researching, and Expanding Alternative Treatments (TREAT) Act introduced by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Penn.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) requires VA to establish a two-year program to provide complementary and integrative health services for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. 
  9. The VA Precision Medicine Act introduced by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Penn.) and Rep. Mike Bost (Ill.) calls on VA to develop and implement the “Precision Medicine Initiative for Veterans” to identify and validate brain and mental health biomarkers among veterans. 
  10. The VA Data Analytics and Technology Assistance (DATA) Act introduced by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Penn.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) will expand VA’s ability to further contract and work with outside academic and research entities.

If you or a veteran you know are struggling, contact the Veteran Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1, or text 838255. For more information about the Committee’s efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis and resources available for veterans, please visit: https://veterans.house.gov/covid-19.

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