Included in the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama is a provision requiring the Pentagon to implement a standardized and comprehensive suicide prevention program. The amendment, sponsored by U.S. Senator Patty Murray, was crafted after a major study by the RAND Corporation showed that there are serious gaps and a lack of consistency in military services’ suicide prevention programs. The new law comes as the number of active duty suicides continues to rise, with 2012 exceeding 2011.
The measure also expands eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs mental health services to family members, strengthens oversight of the Department of Defense Mental Health Care and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, improves training and education for health care providers, creates more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities and requires the VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.
“This law is another step forward in our efforts to ensure that service members aren’t slipping through the cracks,” said Senator Murray in a written statement. “It will help to not only standardize suicide prevention efforts, but also contains provisions to reduce wait times, ensure proper diagnoses and achieve true coordination of care and information between the Pentagon and the VA. We cannot afford to be passive about the military suicide epidemic we face. We must continue to respond with every legislative and outreach effort possible in order to turn this tragic trend around.”