Mental Health Care Improvement
S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans
Mental Health Care Improvement Act, moves to the House
The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Bill Unanimously Passed in the Senate. Bipartisan legislation to connect veterans with life-saving care is one step closer to becoming law.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester introduced this legislation alongside Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) last Congress, to bolster the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) mental health workforce and increase rural veterans’ access to care with alternative and local treatment options. Their bill unanimously passed out of committee earlier this year with a 17-0 vote.
“The Senate’s unanimous passage of our landmark, Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act is an important step in ensuring that no veteran slips through the cracks,” said Ranking Member Tester. The bill honors John Scott Hannon’s legacy—a proud Montanan and former Navy Seal who tragically died by suicide.
“Sadly, our veterans continue to struggle with mental health, and through no fault of their own, this pandemic has led to more veterans being isolated from friends and family and cut off from lifesaving services,” said Chairman Moran. “Now, more than ever, we need to invest into mental health services for veterans especially for those in hard-to-reach areas in rural America. The Senate took an important step by unanimously passing this legislation, and I urge my colleagues in the House to act quickly so our veterans can access critical mental health services to help prevent veteran suicide.”
It is estimated that more than 20 veterans die by suicide every day. Of those, 14 have received no treatment or care from VA. The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act will improve outreach to veterans and their mental health care options in five major ways:
- Study and invest in innovative treatment options by expanding veterans’ access to alternative programs and investing in VA research on veterans’ suicide risk and identifying and treating mental illness. Alternative therapies include Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy along with complementary and integrative health programs like yoga, meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic care.
- Bolster the VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers, placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator in every VA hospital, and requiring a staffing improvement plan for mental health providers.
- Improve rural veterans’ access to mental health care by helping to increase the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services and offering grants to non-VA organizations that provide mental health services or alternative treatment to veterans.
- Hold the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the VA manages its suicide prevention resources and how the VA provides seamless care and information sharing for veterans seeking mental health care from both the VA and community providers.
- Establish a grant program that requires the VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventive services.
Sec. 702 of S.785 calls for PARTNERSHIPS WITH NON-FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ENTITIES TO PROVIDE HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY TO VETERANS AND STUDIES ON THE USE OF SUCH THERAPY FOR TREATMENT OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AND TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY. This section could extend the VA’s current Pilot Demonstration Program on PTSD to include TBI, and opens the door to more clinics being included and reimbursed for treatments. The current program is responsible for 28 successful full treatments of veterans who have failed to improve with VA protocols to palliate symptoms of TBI and PTSD.
35 bipartisan Senators signed the letter to the House. In the House, various Bills have been introduced on Mental Health and HR4370, the TBI and PTSD Treatment Act calling explicitly for the use of HBOT. Cosponsors of legislation on brain injuries include: Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Greg Murphy (R-NC), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Jim Banks (R-IN),
Greg Gianforte (R-MT), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Jack Bergman (R-MI),
Susan Brooks (R-IN), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL),
Brian Mast (R-FL), Connor Lamb, (D-PA), Brian Fitzpatrick(R-PA), and Mike Bost (R-Ill).
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