President Trump on Saturday, signed into law a pair of laws designed to help prevent veterans suicide, including a measure to establish a new three-digit national crisis line similar to 911 for mental health emergencies.
The new suicide crisis hotline measure designates 988 as a universal telephone number for national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline services. Although the call center will not be exclusive for veterans, advocates have championed the idea in recent years as a way to make emergency mental health care more available to veterans.
About 20 veterans and service members die by suicide each day, according to the latest statistics from the VA. That figure has remained about the same level over the last decade despite focused efforts by the VA and Congress on outreach and new intervention services.
Both the VA secretary and assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at Health and Human Services will issue a report to Congress next April on progress with that work and additional resources that may be needed.
When up and running, the new number will be 988. The date for implementation is October 2021.
The other measure - The Commandeer John Scott Hanson Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act - includes a new grant program to encourage collaboration with community organizations on suicide prevention, new hiring rules to quickly fill mental health staffing gaps at the VA and a host of new data requirements to better track potential causes of suicide.
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