August 24, 2020

Chairman Takano Applauds Two New, Bipartisan Bills to Increase Access to Veteran Suicide Prevention Care

New legislation from Reps. Brownley and Brindisi will increase mental healthcare access for Native veterans & ensure every VA has a Suicide Prevention Coordinator

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 his support for two new, bipartisan bills that will reduce veteran suicide by increasing outreach to Native veterans and ensuring every veteran has access to VA suicide prevention care. The American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Mental Health Act introduced by Subcommittee on Health and Women Veterans Task Force Chairwoman Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Rep. Tom Cole (R- Okla.), and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D- N. Mex.) will require VA facilities to document culturally competent outreach and mental health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives -- some of our most at-risk veteran populations. The Access to Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act introduced by Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D- N.Y.), Rep. Michael Bost (R- Ill.), and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) will ensure every VA has a Suicide Prevention Coordinator on staff to assist local veterans. Both of these bills align with the Committee’s comprehensive seven pillar approach to prevent veteran suicide by addressing every angle, factor, and intersection which may lead to suicide itself.

 

“We need to do more to reach out to veterans in need before they are in crisis-- that’s why I strongly support these new bipartisan bills from Rep. Brownley and Rep. Brindisi.  said Chairman Takano. “By increasing access to mental healthcare for some of our most at-risk veterans and ensuring every VA has a Suicide Prevention Coordinator in place, we can begin to address the factors that may lead to suicide itself. This outreach and prevention to Native and rural veterans has become even more critical as we have learned of the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on minority communities.” 

 

“Our American Indian and Alaska Native veterans have selflessly served our country and fought for our freedoms and yet we continue to fail them,” said Rep. Brownley. “Too many Native veterans are unable to access the culturally competent mental health care they deserve. VA needs to recognize the unique challenges Native veterans face and help them. I am proud to introduce this bill which will mandate that every VA medical facility have a minority veterans coordinator who trained in the delivery of culturally competent mental health care for Native veterans.”


“There is an urgent need for action on behalf of our nation’s Veterans. They sacrificed so much in service to our country, and we must do everything we can to be of service to them,” said Rep. Brindisi. “Our bipartisan bill will ensure that no matter where a Veteran lives – in a big city or a more rural area like Upstate New York – they will be able to access the support they need. Twenty Veterans and servicemembers die by suicide per day. We cannot stop working  until that number is down to zero.”

 

Background: 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, eight new suicide prevention bills have been introduced to 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

 

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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