On August 5th, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, S. 785, bipartisan legislation focused on efforts to reduce veteran suicide and improve mental health outcomes through improved access to care, better diagnostic tools and increased oversight of VA programs.
NAMI Montana executive director Matt Kuntz played a pivotal role in advancing this important NAMI priority. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), the bill’s co-sponsor, in his press release quotes Kuntz, “The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act is the most consequential veterans’ mental health bill we have seen in years…It memorializes a dear friend and ally, while making real changes to help improve mental health care for America’s heroes.”
The bill honors the legacy of retired Navy SEAL Commander John Scott Hannon, who served for 23 years and fought a courageous battle against the invisible wounds of war—post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and bipolar disorder—before dying by suicide on February 25, 2018. He was also a longtime member of NAMI Montana.
NAMI is grateful to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) for co-sponsoring and championing this important legislation, which has provisions to:
- Enhance the VA’s mental health workforce
- Increase access to mental health services
- Research innovative brain and mental health diagnostics
- Improve quality of treatment for people with serious mental illness, at risk of suicide, or with co-occurring conditions
- Improve suicide prevention and increase oversight of VA programs
NAMI Montana’s Matt Kuntz also remarked, “[We are] especially excited about the Precision Mental Health Initiative that this legislation launches. It provides an opportunity to use cutting edge science to help our veterans with brain health conditions get the right care at the right time.” NAMI is encouraged by the Senate’s action on this legislation and urges the U.S. House of Representatives to act swiftly and pass this bipartisan veterans’ mental health bill which has the potential to save lives.