38 U.S.C. § 1720F - Comprehensive program for suicide prevention among veterans

Cite as38 U.S.C. § 1720F

(a) ESTABLISHMENT.-The Secretary shall develop and carry out a comprehensive program designed to reduce the incidence of suicide among covered individuals incorporating the components described in this section.

(b) STAFF EDUCATION.-In carrying out the comprehensive program under this section, the Secretary shall provide for mandatory training for appropriate staff and contractors (including all medical personnel) of the Department who interact with covered individuals. This training shall cover information appropriate to the duties being performed by such staff and contractors. The training shall include information on-

(1) recognizing risk factors for suicide;

(2) proper protocols for responding to crisis situations involving covered individuals who may be at high risk for suicide; and

(3) best practices for suicide prevention.

(c) HEALTH ASSESSMENTS.-In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall direct that medical staff offer mental health in their overall health assessment when covered individuals seek medical care at a Department medical facility (including a center established under section 1712A of this title) and make referrals, at the request of the individual concerned, to appropriate counseling and treatment programs for covered individuals who show signs or symptoms of mental health problems.

(d) DESIGNATION OF SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNSELORS.-In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall designate a suicide prevention counselor at each Department medical facility other than centers established under section 1712A of this title. Each counselor shall work with local emergency rooms, police departments, mental health organizations, and veterans service organizations to engage in outreach to covered individuals and improve the coordination of mental health care to covered individuals.

(e) BEST PRACTICES RESEARCH.-In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for research on best practices for suicide prevention among covered individuals. Research shall be conducted under this subsection in consultation with the heads of the following entities:

(1) The Department of Health and Human Services.

(2) The National Institute of Mental Health.

(3) The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

(4) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(f) SEXUAL TRAUMA RESEARCH.-In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for research on mental health care for covered individuals who have experienced sexual trauma while in military service. The research design shall include consideration of veterans or members of a reserve component.

(g) 24-HOUR MENTAL HEALTH CARE.-In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for mental health care availability to covered individuals on a 24-hour basis.

(h) HOTLINE.-In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary may provide for a toll-free hotline for covered individuals to be staffed by appropriately trained mental health personnel and available at all times.

(i) OUTREACH AND EDUCATION.-In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall provide for outreach to and education for covered individuals and the families of covered individuals, 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-

(1) remove the stigma associated with mental illness;

(2) encourage covered individuals to seek treatment and assistance for mental illness;

(3) promote skills for coping with mental illness; and

(4) help families of covered individuals with-

(A) understanding issues arising from the readjustment of covered individuals to civilian life;

(B) identifying signs and symptoms of mental illness; and

(C) encouraging covered individuals to seek assistance for mental illness.

(j) PEER SUPPORT COUNSELING PROGRAM.-

(1) In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall establish and carry out a peer support counseling program, under which covered individuals shall be permitted to volunteer as peer counselors-

(A) to assist other covered individuals with issues related to mental health and readjustment; and

(B) to conduct outreach to covered individuals and the families of covered individuals.

(2) In carrying out the peer support counseling program under this subsection, the Secretary shall provide adequate training for peer counselors, including training carried out under the national program of training required by section 304(c) of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 ( 38 U.S.C. 1712A note).

(3) In addition to other locations the Secretary considers appropriate, the Secretary shall carry out the peer support program under this subsection at each Department medical center.

(4)

(A) As part of the counseling program under this subsection, the Secretary shall emphasize appointing peer support counselors for covered individuals who are women. To the degree practicable, the Secretary shall seek to recruit women peer support counselors with expertise in-

(i) female gender-specific issues and services;

(ii) the provision of information about services and benefits provided under laws administered by the Secretary; or

(iii) employment mentoring.

(B) To the degree practicable, the Secretary shall emphasize facilitating peer support counseling for covered individuals who are women and are eligible for counseling and services under section 1720D of this title, have post-traumatic stress disorder or suffer from another mental health condition, are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, or are otherwise at increased risk of suicide, as determined by the Secretary.

(C) The Secretary shall conduct outreach to inform covered individuals who are women about the program and the assistance available under this paragraph.

(D) In carrying out this paragraph, the Secretary shall coordinate with such community organizations, State and local governments, institutions of higher education, chambers of commerce, local business organizations, organizations that provide legal assistance, and other organizations as the Secretary considers appropriate.

(E) In carrying out this paragraph, the Secretary shall provide adequate training for peer support counselors, including training carried out under the national program of training required by section 304(c) of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 ( 38 U.S.C. 1712A note).

(k) OTHER COMPONENTS.-In carrying out the comprehensive program, the Secretary may provide for other actions to reduce the incidence of suicide among covered individuals that the Secretary considers appropriate.

(l)(1) COVERED INDIVIDUAL DEFINED.-In this section, the term "covered individual" means a veteran or a member of the reserve components of the Armed Forces.

(2) In determining coverage of members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces under the comprehensive program, the Secretary shall consult with the Secretary of Defense.

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