House Passes Suicide Prevention Bill For Veterans

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Veterans' Suicide Prevention Bill

The House on Tuesday voted 417-0 to approve a veterans' suicide prevention bill (HR 327) after lawmakers removed a provision that would have tracked veterans who received treatment for mental illnesses, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

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The legislation, which moves to President Bush for consideration, would require staff at the Department of Veterans Affairsto receive mental health training, screen all veterans who receivetreatment for suicide risk, and refer veterans at risk for suicide tocounseling and treatment. In addition, the bill would designate asuicide counselor for each VA health care facility (Abrams,AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/23). The legislation alsowould provide funds for a 24-hour suicide hotline and suicideprevention research and would promote family outreach and peercounseling for veterans with mental illnesses (Norman, Des Moines Register, 10/24).

House Veterans' Affairs CommitteeChair Bob Filner (D-Calif.) said, "Unfortunately, suicide preventionhas become a major part of our responsibility to both active duty andto our veterans." According to Filner, as many Vietnam War veteranshave committed suicide as soldiers who died during the war.

A report released last May by the VA Inspector General said that, according to the Veterans Health Administration,1,000 veterans who receive treatment within the VA heath care systemand as many as 5,000 other veterans commit suicide annually(AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/23).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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