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Senator Hassan Hosts Discussion On Her New Bipartisan Law to Support Veterans’ Mental Health

In case you missed it, yesterday Senator Maggie Hassan met with veterans and mental health advocates to discuss how her Buddy Check bill – which became law at the end of last month – will help connect more veterans to potentially lifesaving peer-to-peer support.

Senator Hassan hosted a roundtable discussion with leaders of Veterans Service Organizations and the VA, where they discussed the impacts of her new bipartisan law. The law requires the VA to designate an annual “Buddy Check Week” to organize outreach events and educate veterans on how to conduct peer wellness checks.

See coverage highlights below:

Union Leader: Hassan huddles with vets over Buddy Check law

By Kevin Landrigan

Leaders of several veteran organizations predicted a new federal law Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., authored to require a Buddy Check Week every year would be a lifesaver for soldiers dealing with mental health problems.

Hassan hosted a roundtable via Zoom Monday to discuss how stakeholders can take advantage of this new mandate, modeled after the American Legion’s own “Buddy Check Week of National Calling.”

The law requires the Veterans Administration to make sure the Veterans Crisis Line has enough staffing during this week to deal with this surge of additional telephone calls to conduct wellness checks on veterans.

The measure was contained in the $1.7 trillion federal spending bill the Congress approved last month.

Seth Gahr is a peer-to-peer support specialist with the New Hampshire State Police.

“All the vets I’ve spoken to are excited by this. It’s going to take these guys a little while to get acclimated to it,” Gahr said.

“This is a home run program; I just wish we had this 30 years ago in New York City.”

Hassan had planned to host the roundtable at the American Legion’s Sweeney Post in Manchester, but decided to hold it remotely due to the winter storm.

Dr. Alicia Semiatin, chief of mental health with the Manchester VA Medical Center, said the program will help advocates get proactive care to vets.

“We don’t see veterans with mental health issues until they are in crisis,” Semiatin said. “The buddy check program really allows us to do more preventative care.”

[…] Amy Cook, suicide prevention coordinator for the National Alliance for Mental Illness in the state, said her organization last year conducted 650 hours of military culture and suicide prevention training for private employers and health care providers.

“The majority of vets are going to work every day. Employers need to know the warning signs,” Cook said.

Commander Rick Borrazas of the Disabled American Veterans Department of New Hampshire said veterans who are struggling are more likely to accept help from a fellow veteran, ideally one with similar experiences in the military.

[…] Hassan said steps should be taken to ensure the mental health care workforce has “cultural competency” when it comes to assisting veterans who are in crisis.

She also said Congress should consider ways it create more incentives for veterans to enter the field of mental health after their military service.

“We don’t wait for other people to solve problems; we just roll up our sleeves and get going,” Hassan said.

There is a toll free, suicide crisis hotline that can be reached anywhere by dialing 988 and at the prompt, hit 1 which will direct services for a veteran who is in need of help, she added. […]

Watch New England Cable News

NBC Boston/NECN’s Monica Madeja: New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan hosted a roundtable on a new law for wellness checks on all veterans, it’s known as the Buddy Check Law, it would require a week every year to be set aside to conduct wellness checks on U.S. veterans.

Hassan hosted a virtual roundtable with leaders of several veteran organizations on the benefits of this. The Senator says steps should be taken to ensure that veterans have access to mental health care and that those helping vets have “cultural competency” when it comes to helping them.

Veterans’ organizations say this new law will be a lifesaver for vets struggling with mental health.