H. R. 327
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
January 9, 2007
Mr. Boswell (for himself, Mr. Kind, Ms. Jackson-Lee of Texas, Mr. Lipinski, Mr. Hinchey, Mr. Engel, Mr. Ross, Mr. Weiner, Ms. Woolsey, Mr. Schiff, Mr. Lincoln Davis of Tennessee, Mrs. Capps, Mr. Brady of Pennsylvania, Mr. Gutierrez, Mrs. Lowey, Mr. Lantos, Ms. Schwartz, Mr. Meeks of New York, Mr. Ortiz, Mr. Neal of Massachusetts, Mr. McGovern, Mr. Rahall, Mr. Spratt, Mr. Boucher, Mr. Honda, Ms. Matsui, Mr. McIntyre, Ms. Waters, Mr. Cramer, Mr. Mollohan, Mr. Wexler, Mr. Miller of North Carolina, Mr. Crowley, Ms. McCollum of Minnesota, Ms. Schakowsky, Mr. Moore of Kansas, Mr. Ruppersberger, Mr. Olver, Mr. Costello, Mr. Pomeroy, Mr. Salazar, Mrs. Napolitano, Mr. Latham, Mr. Michaud, Mrs. Maloney of New York, Mr. Langevin, Mr. Pascrell, Mrs. McCarthy of New York, Mr. Stark, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Moran of Virginia, Mr. King of Iowa, Mr. Berman, Mr. Etheridge, Mr. Loebsack, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Filner, Ms. Corrine Brown of Florida, Mr. McDermott, Mr. Braley of Iowa, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Larson of Connecticut, Ms. Zoe Lofgren of California, Mr. Baird, Mr. Watt, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Berry, Mr. Holden, Mr. Donnelly, Mr. Hill, Mr. Boyd of Florida, Mr. Cardoza, Mr. Melancon, Ms. Harman, Ms. Bean, Mr. Peterson of Minnesota, Mr. Baca, Mr. Costa, Mr. Matheson, Mr. Barrow, Mr. Scott of Georgia, Mr. Shuler, Mr. Wilson of Ohio, Mr. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, Ms. Herseth, Mr. Mahoney of Florida, Mr. Ellsworth, Mr. Hayes, and Mr. Wamp) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a comprehensive program designed to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans.
This Act may be cited as the
Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act.
Sense of Congress
It is the sense of Congress that—
veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (in this section
referred to as
PTSD) is a serious problem; and
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should take into consideration the special needs of veterans suffering from PTSD and the special needs of elderly veterans who are at high risk for depression and experience high rates of suicide in developing and implementing the comprehensive program under this Act.
Comprehensive program for suicide prevention among veterans
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs (in this
Act referred to as the
Secretary) shall develop and carry out a
comprehensive program designed to reduce the incidence of suicide among
veterans. The program shall incorporate the components described in section
Components of program
In carrying out the comprehensive program under section 3, the Secretary shall provide for mandatory training for appropriate staff and contractors (including all medical personnel) of the Department of Veterans Affairs who interact with veterans. This training shall cover information appropriate to the duties being performed by such staff and contractors. The training shall include information on—
recognizing risk factors for suicide;
proper protocols for responding to crisis situations involving veterans who may be at high risk for suicide; and
best practices for suicide prevention.
Screening of veterans receiving medical care
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for screening of veterans who receive medical care at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility (including a center established under section 1712A of title 38, United States Code) for risk factors for suicide.
Tracking of veterans
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for appropriate tracking of veterans.
Counseling and treatment of veterans
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for referral of veterans at risk for suicide for appropriate counseling and treatment.
Designation of suicide prevention counselors
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall designate a suicide prevention counselor at each Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility other than centers established under section 1712A of title 38, United States Code. Each counselor shall work with local emergency rooms, police departments, mental health organizations, and veterans service organizations to engage in outreach to veterans and improve the coordination of mental health care to veterans.
Best practices research
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for research on best practices for suicide prevention among veterans. Research shall be conducted under this subsection in consultation with the heads of the following entities:
The Department of Health and Human Services.
The National Institute of Mental Health.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sexual trauma research
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for research on mental health care for veterans who have experienced sexual trauma while in military service. The research design shall include consideration of veterans of a reserve component.
24-hour mental health care
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for mental health care availability to veterans on a 24-hour basis.
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary may provide for a toll-free hotline for veterans to be staffed by appropriately trained mental health personnel and available at all times.
Outreach and education for veterans and families
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for outreach to and education for veterans and the families of veterans, with special emphasis on providing information to veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and the families of such veterans. Education to promote mental health shall include information designed to—
remove the stigma associated with mental illness;
encourage veterans to seek treatment and assistance for mental illness;
promote skills for coping with mental illness; and
help families of veterans with—
understanding issues arising from the readjustment of veterans to civilian life;
identifying signs and symptoms of mental illness; and
encouraging veterans to seek assistance for mental illness.
Peer support counseling program
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall establish and carry out a peer support counseling program, under which veterans shall be permitted to volunteer as peer counselors—
to assist other veterans with issues related to mental health and readjustment; and
to conduct outreach to veterans and the families of veterans.
Training for volunteers
In carrying out the peer support counseling program under this subsection, the Secretary shall provide adequate training for peer counselors.
In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary may provide for other actions to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans that the Secretary deems appropriate.
Report to Congress
Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit a report to Congress.
Contents of report
The report shall contain the following:
Information on the status of the implementation of the program developed pursuant to section 3.
Information on the time line and costs for complete implementation of the program within two years.
A plan for additional programs and activities designed to reduce the occurrence of suicide among veterans.
Recommendations for further legislation or administrative action that the Secretary considers appropriate to improve suicide prevention programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs.