Suicide prevention program signed into law

An amendment aimed at curbing the rise of military suicide has been signed into law by President Obama.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and requires the Pentagon to implement a standardized and comprehensive suicide prevention program.

“This law is another step forward in our efforts to ensure that servicemembers aren’t slipping through the cracks,” said Murray. “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.”

Murray drafted the amendment after a major study by the RAND Corporation showed there are serious gaps and a lack of consistency in military services’ suicide prevention programs. The number of active duty suicides has continued to rise, with the Pentagon reporting 154 suicides in the first 155 days of 2012.

“We cannot afford to be passive about the military suicide epidemic we face,” Murray said.

The amendment will expand eligibility for VA mental health services to family members; strengthen oversight of the DoD Mental Health Care  and Integrated Disabillity Evaluation system; improve training and education for health care providers; create more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities; and require VA to establish accurate and reliable  measures for mental health services.