Senator Doug Jones Applauds Signing of Historic Veterans Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Bill

By  | October 23, 2020 | Filed under: News

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama today applauded the signing of bipartisan legislation he cosponsored, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, into law. The legislation will bolster the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) mental health workforce and increase rural veterans’ access to care.

“Too many veterans – in Alabama and across the country – lack access to affordable, compassionate and effective mental health care. Through increased access to local and innovative treatment options, this new law will help veterans get the life-saving mental health services they may need,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

According to the VA, it is estimated that more than 20 veterans die by suicide every day. Of those, 14 have received no treatment or care from VA.

The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which was introduced by Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Jon Tester of Montana, will improve outreach to veterans and their mental health care options in six key ways:

  • Bolstering VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers, and placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator in every VA hospital.
  • Improving rural veterans’ access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services.
  • Implementing a pilot program to provide veterans access to complementary and integrative health programs through animal therapy, agritherapy, sports and recreation therapy, art therapy and post-traumatic growth.
  • Establishing a grant program that requires VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventative services.
  • Studying the impact of living at high altitude on veterans’ suicide risk and diagnostic biomarker research to identify depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other conditions.
  • Holding the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the Department manages its suicide prevention resources.

This law honors the legacy of Commander John Scott Hannon, a member of the Navy SEALs who served in the U.S. Navy for 23 years. Scott Hannon received treatment for his invisible wounds of war while helping other veterans find their own paths to recovery. Scott died by suicide on February 25, 2018.

Media Release/Office of US Senator Doug Jones

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