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Improving Mental Health Services for Veterans
By Dan Rafter Communications Director
Jul 13, 2014 - 2:07:15 AM

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WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is co-sponsoring a comprehensive, bipartisan bill aimed at preventing veteran suicide by improving the quality, capacity, and access to mental health services within the VA. Yesterday, Michaud joined Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) in leading a House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on mental health services and suicide prevention for veterans. Michaud serves as Ranking Member on the committee.

"When a veteran is experiencing depression or other early warning signs that may indicate mental health issues or even suicide, that must be treated like an immediate medical crisis -- because that is exactly what it is," said Michaud. "Right now, veterans are not getting access to effective mental health services quickly enough, and we need to do everything possible to eliminate barriers to this care. I support the Clay Hunt SAV Act because I believe it will make substantial improvements in order to rapidly get veterans the care and support infrastructure they need, when they need it most."

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (Clay Hunt SAV) Act would amend the requirements for reviewing potentially improper military discharges in order to ensure that vets with PTSD or TBI can get full access to proper healthcare services. It also calls for an annual evaluation of suicide prevention programs at the DoD and VA, and new coordination between the VA and the National Guard for greater continuity of care. To better coordinate with local communities, the bill establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers with accessing VA mental healthcare services.

While funding for the VA's mental health services has nearly doubled in recent years, services delivered have remained virtually flat. Statistics, meanwhile, estimate that 18-22 veterans commit suicide each day.

"We are confronting many problems at the VA at this moment, but improving mental health services must be an immediate priority," added Michaud. "Our veterans and their families sacrifice so much for us, and it is unconscionable for us not to be there for them -- particularly in a moment of need."

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