Senate Passes Bill To Improve Mental Health Care & Suicide Prevention Resources For Veterans

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that the Senate has passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act by a vote of 99 to 0. The bill improves and modernizes suicide prevention programs for veterans by increasing access to mental health care, improving the quality of care at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities, and developing a community support system for veterans. The bill was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), co-sponsored by Durbin, and now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

“Veterans nationwide are affected by conditions that can contribute to depression and thoughts of suicide. Sadly, the number of suicides is disproportionately higher for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Durbin said. “Today, in bipartisan fashion, the Senate said we need to do more to make sure our heroes have access to the help they need. I was proud to co-sponsor the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act. It will help reduce – and hopefully eliminate – veteran suicides by improving the access to and quality of mental health care services at VA facilities.”

An estimated 22 veterans a day take their own lives, twice as high as the general population. The bill was named for Marine veteran Clay Hunt who committed suicide in 2011 at the age of 28. The bill would take the following steps to address veteran suicide:

  • Increase access to mental health care and capacity at VA to meet demand.
  • Require a one-stop, interactive website to centralize information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans, and;
  • Authorize a student loan repayment pilot program to help recruit and retain psychiatrists
  • Improve the quality of care and boost accountability at the VA.
  • Require evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what’s working and make recommendations to improve care.
  • Develop a community support system for veterans.
  • Establish a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members with accessing VA mental health care services.