Congressman Gibson attends White House ceremony for suicide prevention law

Congressman Gibson attends White House ceremony for suicide prevention law

Washington, Feb 12 – 2015

Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) attended today’s White House bill signing ceremony for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which increases access to mental health care for military personnel and veterans.

Congressman Gibson, a former Army officer, co-authored the legislation.

“Military families across our nation are coping with unimaginable grief after the loss of a loved one to suicide,” he said. “This bill makes it far easier for returning servicemen and women to get the care they need, including valuable peer-to-peer support, and it makes provisions to grow the ranks of mental health professionals working within the VA and DOD. Having lost some of my own troopers to suicide, it was a tremendous honor for me to advance this legislation and look on as the President signed it into law.”

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which passed Congress with huge bipartisan support, creates a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemen and women.

It also requires an independent third party to conduct annual evaluations of VA mental health and suicide prevention programs, authorizes the VA to collaborate with non-profit organizations to improve the efficiency of suicide prevention efforts, and starts a loan repayment program to help recruit new psychiatric caregivers.

The legislation is named for Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, who was awarded the Purple Heart in Iraq and deployed to Afghanistan. He was diagnosed with PTSD but faced serious delays as he sought treatment from a psychiatrist.

In 2011, Corporal Hunt took his own life at the age of 28.

Congressman Gibson and his wife Mary Jo, a licensed clinical social worker who co-chairs the group Congressional Spouses for Suicide Prevention, are longtime advocates for improved mental health programming.

During his tenure in the House of Representatives, he has worked to enact reforms of the VA healthcare system, including legislation adopted last year that gives veterans from rural areas the option of being treated by local physicians.

“I’ve been disappointed with the initial implementation of the law by the VA, and I encourage anyone having difficulties with the system to contact our district offices for assistance,” said Congressman Gibson. “We are working with the administration and committees in Congress to see that the VA fully complies with and meets the intent of the legislation—to reduce the backlog and provide ready access to quality care.”

Author: Harlem Valley News