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Backed by two Minnesota lawmakers, vet suicide prevention bill heads to Pres. Obama's desk

Backed by two Minnesota lawmakers, vet suicide prevention bill heads to Pres. Obama's desk

(THE MED CITY BEAT) - Pres. Barack Obama will soon sign into law a bill aimed at preventing suicides by U.S. military veterans.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act passed the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 99-0. The legislation was first introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat representing Minnesota's 1st District.

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Too many returning veterans are suffering, and too many tragically turn to suicide in their darkest hours. We must do better," said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who cosponsored the Senate version of the bill. "That’s why Congressman Walz and I have continued to fight for this bill, and while there is still more work to do, today’s action is one step forward in the effort to deliver veterans the suicide prevention and mental health care treatment they deserve.”

The $22 million bill would require the Pentagon and the VA to submit to independent reviews of their suicide prevention programs. It would also establish a website to provide information on mental health services available to veterans and offer financial incentives to psychiatrists who agree to work for the VA. 

Walz applauded the Senate's passage of the bill in a statement released online:

While this bill represents an important step forward to improve care for our warriors, tomorrow we must start again. We must build upon its passage. We may never completely end this terrible epidemic that is plaguing our country, but if we can save one parent from having to bury their child, one son from losing his mother, or one sister from losing her brother, it’s worth trying with all our might. As we move forward, I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress, veterans, and veterans’ advocates to improve mental health care for our warriors and their families. They deserve nothing less.
— Rep. Tim Walz

The measure is named for Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from Houston who took his own life in 2011. The bill is supported by several veterans groups, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

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: File / U.S. Navy / Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam Bennet)

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