WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today voted to send to the President’s desk the Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act, bipartisan legislation Senator Hassan cosponsored that is aimed at reducing the high suicide rate among veterans. The bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to evaluate the Suicide Prevention Coordinators program, looking at staffing shortages and the workload of the coordinators. These coordinators are responsible for an array of suicide prevention activities at the VA, including counseling, identifying high-risk veterans, conducting outreach, and promoting awareness of veteran suicide.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking that after selfless service to our country, too many veterans die of suicide – and we have a responsibility as a nation to do more to support veterans who are struggling,” said Senator Hassan. “Suicide Prevention Coordinators at the VA are engaged in such critical work, and the VA must ensure that this program is adequately staffed. I am very glad that bipartisan legislation I cosponsored to evaluate and support this program is now on its way to becoming law.”
Each year, more than 6,000 veterans die from suicide, and the most recent report from the VA found that the suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times the rate of suicide for non-veteran adults. Due to the growing number of veterans seeking care, many Suicide Prevention Coordinators report being overworked and unable to keep up with their many responsibilities. The bipartisan Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act would require the Comptroller General to assess the responsibilities, workload, and vacancy rates of the suicide prevention coordinator position across the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure it is adequately staffed.
Senator Hassan has prioritized efforts to support veterans’ mental health. The VA Mission Act that was signed into law in 2018 included provisions from the Hassan-backed bipartisan VETS Act that expands telehealth services provided by the VA, including mental health treatment. Senator Hassan also introduced bipartisan legislation to address the high rate of suicide among members of the National Guard and Reserve, as well as co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to expand veterans' access to and use of public lands for outdoor therapy and rehabilitation treatments.