Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand applauded the passage of The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act. Gillibrand is an original cosponsor of the bill (S. 167/H.R. 203) which passed unanimously in the Senate today after passing in the House of Representatives earlier this month, and now heads to the President’s desk. The bill aims to help reduce military and veteran suicides by improving mental health care and enhancing suicide prevention resources.
“The brave men and women who served our country deserve access to quality mental health care, and I was proud to cosponsor this important bipartisan legislation to prevent further suicides,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Too many of our veterans who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms are taking their own lives. This bill will improve critical services by evaluating and improving existing VA mental health programs, providing enhanced resources for transitioning veterans, and addressing the shortage of mental health professional by creating new incentives that attract them to the VA. We owe it to the heroes who served our country to ensure they get the help and care they need to stop this crisis of veteran suicides.”
According to a VA study, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the United States. The Clay Hunt SAV Act addresses the suicide crisis by increasing access to mental health care and capacity at VA. The bill requires the VA to create a centralized website for all information regarding mental health services. It addresses the shortage of mental health professionals by creating new incentives including authorizing the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program to attract and retain mental health professionals. The bill aims to improve the quality of care and enhance accountability by requiring evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA. It also seeks to develop a community support system for veterans by establishing a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members with access to VA mental health care.
The bill is named for Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who committed suicide in 2011. He earned a Purple Heart after getting shot by a sniper’s bullet while deployed in Anbar Province, near Fallujah in 2007. After recovering Hunt redeployed to southern Afghanistan and was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2009. Before taking his own life Hunt suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and struggled to receive adequate care at his local VA hospital.