Walz's veteran suicide prevention bill signed into law by Pres. Obama
(THE MED CITY BEAT) - Pres. Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a bill aimed at preventing suicides by U.S. military veterans.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act unanimously passed both chambers of Congress in recent weeks. The legislation was first introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat representing Minnesota's 1st District.
The law is named for Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from Houston who took his own life in 2011.
"The best way to honor this young man who should be here is to make sure that more veterans like him are here for all the years to come and able to make extraordinary contributions, building on what they’ve already done for our safety and our security," Pres. Obama said during a speech in the East Room of The White House.
The Clay Hunt Act will, according to the White House:
- Require annual third-party evaluations of VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs
- Create a centralized website with resources and information for veterans about the range of mental health services available from the VA
- Require collaboration on suicide prevention efforts between VA and non-profit mental health organizations
“I think more than anything, it signals that we’re still unified on this issue,” Rep. Walz said, according to a report by MinnPost. “People still understand how important it is, and as we continue to ask the VA to be accountable and make those changes, we’re simultaneously putting new things in place.”
An estimated 22 veterans take their life each day, the equivalent of a suicide every 65 minutes.
A recent report by News21, an investigative multimedia program for journalism students, found the suicide rate for veterans increased an average of 2.6 percent a year from 2005 to 2011. That's more than double the rate of increase for civilian suicide.
To contact the VA’s Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and push “1″ for Veteran services. Veterans Chat can be accessed at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net. Veterans Text is available at 838255.
(Cover photo: The White House)