September is Suicide Prevention Month, a month that provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness about an issue that is plaguing so many of our neighbors, friends, and family members. This is an issue that Congress is continuing to address on a bipartisan basis; after all, it does not discriminate based on age, gender, and definitely not political party.
That is why I am reaching across the aisle to find solutions for a population that has been disproportionately affected by suicide: our veterans. Together with Representative Dave Loebsack (D-IA), we are working to pass the Never Again Act. This legislation would ensure that no veteran seeking in-patient psychiatric care is ever turned away from a VA facility. Simply put, under the Never Again Act, if a veteran asks for mental health care from the VA, they will receive care.
Earlier this month, and with bipartisan support, the House approved a provision to support the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and their efforts in assisting community programs promoting mental wellness. Additionally, we are beginning to see the effects of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in 2016 by President Obama, as it is being implemented.
Included in the final version of the 21st Century Cures Act was language from the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which expands Medicaid and Medicare coverage for mental health services, antidepressants and antipsychotic medication. This will help ensure that those facing mental illness have access to the help that they need, regardless of income.
The 21st Century Cures Act is also working to ensure that these services can reach underserved areas. One provision creates five-year minimum grants for medical residents, nurses and physician assistants, psychologists, and social workers who provide mental health services in underserved community-based settings. I am confident that initiatives like this will help connect those who are called to serve with those who need it the most.
I believe that much of the legislative approach to this critical issue is centered on connecting those in need to the assistance they urgently require. With that said, you can find a list of mental health organizations and the resources offered throughout the 15th District here: http://mha.ohio.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=790. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, please – say something. Together, we can make our communities healthier and happier.
Congressman Steve Stivers represents Ohio’s 15th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.