Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill Includes Dr. Bucshon’s Reforms
(WASHINGTON, DC) – On Thursday, President Obama signed H.R. 203, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (Clay Hunt SAV Act), a bill that aims to prevent veteran suicides and ensure veterans have access to resources that help them overcome the psychological struggles of war. This reform bill includes a pilot program first introduced by Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08) to recruit more psychiatrists and increase access to critical mental healthcare services for our nation’s veterans.
“Many of the brave men and women who have served our country are returning home without proper attention to their mental health needs. Tragically, we are losing 22 veterans every day to suicide. Improving access to mental healthcare is a critical first step to reversing this trend,” said Congressman Bucshon, M.D. “During my career as a physician and my time working at the VA, I saw the need for new dedicated methods that encourage more psychiatrists to choose a career helping veterans. Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices for this country, and I firmly believe we should do everything in our power to support them. I’m happy that my pilot program to recruit more qualified psychiatrists across the country to serve our veterans was incorporated into this important bill.”
This bill is named after Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who earned a Purple Heart in Iraq before redeploying to Afghanistan. Upon his return from duty, Clay was diagnosed with PTSD and later tragically took his own life at age 28.
Clay’s story is unfortunately not uncommon. Many of our veterans return from battle facing obstacles to the mental health resources they need. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that one of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) greatest challenges has been to hire and retain psychiatrists to properly diagnose, treat, and monitor the mental health of veterans.
Drawing on his experience practicing medicine and his time at the VA Hospital in Milwaukee, WI, Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. introduced a pilot program to fill the growing vacancy of psychiatric care in the VA system through a recruitment and loan repayment model. This program was outlined in Bucshon’s bill, H.R. 4234, the Ensuring Veterans Resiliency Act, and incorporated into the Clay Hunt SAV Act.
American Psychiatric Association (APA) President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D. praised Bucshon’s pilot program saying, “this legislation will help ensure that our nation’s veterans, who often face significant mental health challenges, have access to much needed, high quality, mental health care.”
H.R. 203 passed the House by a vote 403 to 0 in early January of this year and subsequently cleared the Senate 99 to 0 at the beginning of February.
Congressman Larry Bucshon, a physician from Southern Indiana, is serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the 114th Congress, Bucshon will serve on the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The 8th District of Indiana includes all or parts of Clay, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Greene, Knox, Martin, Owen, Parke, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Sullivan, Vanderburgh, Vermillion, Vigo, and Warrick counties.