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Veteran suicide prevention bill becomes law

Among other things, the bill creates a new policy to increase the number of mental health professionals in VA facilities and promote innovative treatment options.
Photo Source: Corey Hook / USAF / MGN
Photo Source: Corey Hook / USAF / MGN(KALB)
Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 2:54 PM EDT
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ALPENA, Mich. (Press release/WLUC) - A bipartisan bill, with support from Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), has been signed into law.

President Donald J. Trump signed into law S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, which according to Bergman, features his bipartisan IMPROVE Act.

Rep. Bergman said, “This is a major step towards providing our veterans – especially those living in rural and remote parts of our country – the care they need. S.785 changes the status quo. It says: ‘We’re here for you.’ It helps us to better keep our nation’s promise to veterans. And now that it’s signed into law, I’m eager to see it make a difference in our communities.”

“We’ve spent billions of dollars at the VA on some very important mental health and suicide prevention programs – but the fact remains that we still see nearly 20 Veterans die by suicide every day," Bergman continued. "The majority of these tragedies occur with veterans who are outside the VA system of care – which is why S. 785 is so important. This legislation recognizes the diverse factors that lead to suicide deaths, and it will improve outreach and help our nation’s veterans find assistance closer to home.”

This new veteran suicide prevention law helps to authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take a new, effective approach in fighting the Veterans suicide crisis by making grants to - and coordinating with - community organizations that provide lifesaving mental health and supportive services to local Veterans.

S. 785 also includes new policy to increase the number of mental health professionals in VA facilities, bolster telehealth programs for rural and remote veterans, and promote innovative treatment options.

Additionally, President Trump signed S. 2661 the National Suicide Hotline designation Act into law, designating 9-8-8 as the universal telephone number of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. Please note the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently working to implement this new three-digit policy, so in the meantime remember - you can still seek help at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (press 1 if you are a servicemember or veteran) or by chatting online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.

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