Problem Solvers Endorse Bill Aimed at Improving Mental Health Care for Veterans
WASHINGTON — The bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus on Tuesday endorsed the VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at improving suicide prevention and mental health care for veterans.
In 2019, there was an average of more than 17 U.S. veterans dying from suicide per day — a rate 52.3% higher than non-veterans. Perhaps even more sobering, 40% of veteran suicides were among active VA patients.
For veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001, the rate is even more alarming, with 30,117 active-duty service members and veterans dying by suicide, over four times the number of combat deaths over the past two decades.
The VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act would bolster clinical training, assessments and resources to test the effectiveness of implementing the Zero Suicide Model at five VA centers.
Specifically, the VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act would establish the Zero Suicide Initiative pilot program to implement the Zero Suicide Institute curriculum to improve veteran safety and suicide care.
The Zero Suicide Initiative stems from the Henry Ford Health System, built on the belief that all suicides are preventable through proper care, patient safety and system-wide efforts.
The model has delivered clear decreases in suicide rates through innovative care pathways to assess and diminish suicide risk for patients across care systems.
In consultation with experts and veteran service organizations, the U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs would select five medical centers to receive training and support under the pilot program to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Zero Suicide Framework to better combat suicides across the entire VA.
“Just one soldier or veteran lost to suicide is too many. Our nation’s veterans deserve the best care after putting their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we hold dear,” said Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., in a written statement.
“These are not red or blue issues — they are red, white and blue — and I’m proud that the members of the Problem Solvers Caucus are continuing to work across the aisle by endorsing the bipartisan VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act to improve veteran safety and suicide care,” Gottheimer said.
Reps. Susie Lee, D-Nev., and Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, brought the bill to the caucus for endorsement, which garnered the support of over 75% of the bipartisan caucus.
The bill is also supported by several veteran and mental health advocacy organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Student Veterans of America.