BEND, OR -- Congress has passed a bill that would improve mental health services for veterans. President Obama is expected to sign it into law, soon. The "Clay Hunt Veteran Suicide Bill" is named for a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and committed suicide in 2011.
Kathy Skidmore with Central Oregon Veterans Outreach applauds the Legislation. "We're becoming much more aware of the number of soldiers who are suicide prone in all eras and services. They suffer from PTSD, unemployment is very high, soldiers are coming back and don't have incomes and don't have homes." She tells KBND News it's important the effort also involve more rural areas. "Because it often goes to the bigger cities. They tend to get more of the funds. I'm not sure where the funds will go in this bill, whether they are addressing [our] type of treatment center."
Senator Ron Wyden co-sponsored the bipartisan bill, which is designed to improve a range of suicide prevention services for veterans, including information and counseling by mental health professionals. It would also aim to recruit more professionals into V.A. service by repaying student loans for Psychiatry students.
Wyden is convinced the bill will save lives in Oregon and across the country. In Oregon, 27% of suicides involve veterans. He spoke about continued veterans issues at a recent town hall in Bend, "So many veterans are injured, have woulds that will require care for the rest of their lives. They were people who, ten years ago, would not have survived. What I mean is, they would not have come off the battlefield." Wyden says we have a solemn obligation to provide services and care to our veterans, and he believes this new legislation will help do just that.