Reps. Bergman, Lee introduce bipartisan bill to end veteran suicide

This new legislation would establish a pilot program at the Department of Veterans Affairs called the “Zero Suicide Initiative.”
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 5:31 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Press Release) - Thursday, July 9, Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI-1) and Congresswoman Susie Lee (D-NV-3) introduced the VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act of 2020. This new legislation would establish a pilot program at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) called the “Zero Suicide Initiative.”

The Zero Suicide Initiative, a concept and program founded by the Henry Ford Health Care System, is a program built on the belief that all suicides are preventable through proper care, patient safety, and systems-focused efforts. This legislation would build on the VA’s strong suicide prevention efforts by implementing more comprehensive, systems-focused Zero Suicide efforts in pilot programs at five VA medical centers across the country. 

“For over a decade, around 20 Veterans have taken their own lives each day. We cannot tolerate this lack of progress because we know that even one suicide is too many. The VA has recently made great strides in committing to Veteran Suicide efforts, including through new plans outlined by the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) Task Force,” said Rep. Bergman. “Until we’ve fully addressed this crisis, however, we must innovate and explore all avenues – starting with what has demonstrated positive results. This new legislation will implement the “zero suicides” method, changing the way VA approaches suicide risk.”

“One veteran death by suicide a day is too much,” said Rep. Lee. “Our goal must be to bring veteran deaths by suicide to zero. We know that of the 20 veteran deaths by suicide per day, on average, six occur with active VA patients. While much can be done to reach the 14 veterans who are not accessing VA resources, the Zero Suicide Initiative focuses on providing the culture and resources to eliminate deaths by suicide within the VA. If we can show that these Zero Suicide pilot programs are effective at reducing suicide within the VA system, then we can expand the program to reach every veteran in America. Our nation’s veterans deserve our full support, and this bill with support from both parties shows our veterans they’re not in this alone.”

The legislation would:

  • Establish a 4-year pilot program to implement a “Zero Suicides Initiative” model at five VA Health Systems, including one which serves primarily rural and remote Veterans.
  • Require VA to report on the ongoing pilot and whether it should continue the program after its expiration.

Read the full legislation here. The VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act of 2020 builds on Rep. Bergman’s efforts to end Veteran Suicide, such as through the IMPROVE Act.

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