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Missouri House unanimously passes bill expanding suicide prevention for veterans

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(The Center Square) – The Missouri House unanimously sent a bill to the Senate that would require the state’s Veterans Commission to expand its suicide prevention efforts and file annual reports on the work with the legislature.

House Bill 1495, approved by a vote of 157-0, would mandate collaboration between the Missouri Veterans Commission and the Department of Mental Health to review the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Act of 2019 and any related regulations. The federal regulations broaden mental health care and suicide prevention programs and evaluate and treat mental health conditions for veterans.

During a January hearing on the bill, testimony revealed Missouri’s veteran suicide rate is 45.2 per 100,000, higher than the national rate of 33.9.

“It does not really matter what the number is,” Rep. David Griffith, R-Jefferson City, and chairman of the House Veterans Committee, said in a statement announcing the passage of the bill. “I don’t care about how Missouri ranks – we have too many veterans taking their lives. Just one is too many.”

Approximately 18 veterans committed suicide each day in 2021, according to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report. The 6,392 veterans losing their lives was an increase of 100 compared to 2020. The report found 185 Missouri veterans committed suicide in 2021 and the 2023 report found that the state’s veteran suicide rate is significantly higher than the national average.

“These types of services are crucial in preventing veteran suicides,” Griffith said. “If we can prevent one suicide today… we can start turning this into a downward trend. Every Missourian can make a difference. We can take that step today.”

The Veterans Commission would be required to file an annual report on its recommendations, implementation and effectiveness of efforts to prevent veteran suicide. The first report would be due July 1, 2025, and by July 1 every year thereafter and filed with the Department of Public Safety and the General Assembly.

“By prioritizing comprehensive measures to prevent the tragedy of veteran suicides, we are reaffirming our duty to those who have sacrificed for our freedom,” Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, said in a statement. “This legislation exemplifies our shared commitment to the mental health and resilience of Missouri’s veterans, marking a significant stride towards building a future where no veteran is left behind.”

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