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Clay Hunt SAV Act signed into law

President Barack Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act into law today. The new legislation is intended to help veterans receive mental health care, according to a press release.

The Senate passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (S.167/H.R. 203) on Feb. 3, and the House of Representatives on Jan. 12. The legislation is named after Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran and suicide prevention advocate who committed suicide in 2011.

Paul Summergrad

Paul Summergrad

“Today is a more hopeful day for America’s veterans,” Paul Summergrad, MD, President of the APA, said in a press release. “The brave men and women who served our country have sacrificed so much for us, and the Clay Hunt SAV Act is one way we can begin to repay them by improving much-needed access to mental health care and to reduce the tragedy of veteran suicides. We will now focus our attention to ensure the provisions of the Clay Hunt SAV Act are carried out. We have no more important obligation."

The legislation will introduce a pilot program that will repay the medical school loans of psychiatrists who agree to serve in the Veterans Health Administration; enable improved access to mental health care information on the existing VA website; and establish a community outreach pilot program to assist veterans transitioning from active duty service, with an extended period of eligibility for health care services.

Additionally, the Secretary of VA and non-profit mental health organizations will collaborate on suicide prevention efforts by exchanging training sessions and best practices.

According to the APA, more than 35% of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans in the VA health care system have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder or depression. – by Samantha Costa

President Barack Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act into law today. The new legislation is intended to help veterans receive mental health care, according to a press release.

The Senate passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (S.167/H.R. 203) on Feb. 3, and the House of Representatives on Jan. 12. The legislation is named after Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran and suicide prevention advocate who committed suicide in 2011.

Paul Summergrad

Paul Summergrad

“Today is a more hopeful day for America’s veterans,” Paul Summergrad, MD, President of the APA, said in a press release. “The brave men and women who served our country have sacrificed so much for us, and the Clay Hunt SAV Act is one way we can begin to repay them by improving much-needed access to mental health care and to reduce the tragedy of veteran suicides. We will now focus our attention to ensure the provisions of the Clay Hunt SAV Act are carried out. We have no more important obligation."

The legislation will introduce a pilot program that will repay the medical school loans of psychiatrists who agree to serve in the Veterans Health Administration; enable improved access to mental health care information on the existing VA website; and establish a community outreach pilot program to assist veterans transitioning from active duty service, with an extended period of eligibility for health care services.

Additionally, the Secretary of VA and non-profit mental health organizations will collaborate on suicide prevention efforts by exchanging training sessions and best practices.

According to the APA, more than 35% of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans in the VA health care system have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder or depression. – by Samantha Costa

    Perspective

    The Clay Hunt SAV bill is relevant to the mental health field because it brings to light, even more now than we have seen in the past, the huge problem of suicide among active duty military and veterans.

    It also reminds us that we still don’t have the “right answer” as to how to help these veterans and active military personnel. Attempts have been made for a number of years, but the fact is that we do not yet have the best solution to the problem.

    Kerry L. Knox, PhD, and colleagues published a paper in 2012 about the efforts in the U.S. Air Force to deal with the issue of suicide. There is also a paper coming out from the American Psychiatric Association on a very recent study that addresses attempts to solve the problem of suicide in this population. In both of these studies, the researchers found that interventions can help. However, the problem has not gone away, and it remains an issue. Further studies and programs are needed.

    This new law mandates that the Department of Veterans Affairs takes a closer look at potential programs that may reduce the suicide rate, or deal with it in a more effective way. It also mandates to study the programs.

    It is not easy from a scientific and epidemiological standpoint to study the interventions that work and do not work. Hopefully, the bill will encourage follow-up studies to see which practices work best to prevent suicide.

    It allows a mechanisms for producing more psychiatrists who will likely go into the VA. We need as many well-trained mental health professionals in the VA and in the military to deal with this and other problems we are seeing among those who are returning home.

    • Harry Croft, MD
    • Chief, CNS Trials, Clinical Trials of Texas
      Former Army psychiatrist

    Disclosures: Croft reports no relevant financial disclosures.