Legislation Would Launch Suicide Prevention Pilot Programs At VA Centers Across The U.S.
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with U.S. Representatives Susie Lee (D-NV) and Tony Gonzales (R-TX) announced they have introduced the VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act to take steps to address deaths of veterans by suicide. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would implement a Zero Suicide Initiative pilot program at five U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers across the country, including one that must serve primarily veterans who live in rural areas. In 2020, the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report found that an average of 17 veterans die by suicide each day, a number unchanged over two decades.
“Nevada’s veterans have made immeasurable sacrifices risking their health and well-being to protect our country, and these heroes deserve access to the best mental health resources available,” said Senator Rosen. “With veteran deaths by suicide occurring at an alarming rate, our bipartisan legislation will help address this problem by supporting veterans’ access to the mental health services they need.”
“North Dakota veterans bravely served our country, and taking care of them includes taking care of their mental health,” said Senator Cramer. “Drawing upon the success of the Zero Suicide Initiative, this pilot program will bring suicide prevention resources to VA health centers and veterans in need of care.”
“Every day in this country, seventeen veterans take their own lives. We need to do everything in our power to bring veteran deaths by suicide to zero,” said Congresswoman Susie Lee. “This legislation delivers a proven, system-wide approach to close gaps, improve communication, and increase accountability within the VA, so that no veteran slips through the cracks. Our nation’s veterans deserve nothing less.”
“As a Navy veteran, I know that not all injuries are physical,” said Congressman Tony Gonzales. “We lose 17 veterans to suicide every day, but even one is too many. Our men and women who have selflessly served our country deserve better. The VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act works to bolster VA suicide prevention efforts and improve the way our VA system approaches mental health.”
“The Nevada Veterans Association is pleased to support this bipartisan legislation that places our VA centers in a position of action to create and expand Veteran suicide preventative measures,” said Donna Lee, President of the Nevada Veterans Association.
“The VFW is proud to support the VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act which would hopefully eliminate the veteran suicide epidemic,” said Daniel Sanders, Commander for the VFW Department of Nevada. “We thank Senator Rosen for continuing to make this a priority in Congress and we look forward to working with her to get the veteran suicide number down to zero.”
The Zero Suicide model has seen enormous success, with some health care systems having experienced reductions of up to 75% in suicide rates among patients in the health care system, while generally the nation faced an increased rate of suicide. The bipartisan, bicameral VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act is endorsed by key national and Nevada organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Disabled Americans Veterans (DAV), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Nevada Veterans Association.
Senator Rosen is committed to fighting for our nation’s veterans and ensuring they have access to the care they deserve. Earlier this year, Senator Rosen helped secure a request to build a new VA hospital in Reno in the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget. Last year, Senator Rosen helped pass the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which was signed into law, and will extend Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and health care to all veterans suffering from illnesses as a result of exposure to burn pits and other toxins during their service. She has also introduced numerous bipartisan bills to support Nevada’s veterans, including legislation to help veterans start small businesses in underserved communities, and establish and improve Student Veteran Centers at colleges and universities.