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Our Opinion: Combating veteran suicide

April 13, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Veterans commit suicide at an alarming rate -- far higher than the rest of the population.

More than 31 veterans per 100,000 commit suicide, while the suicide rate for the general U.S. population is just fewer than 17 people per 100,000.

It's been a persistent problem for a long time in our country, with no easy solutions.

One tool to help is House Bill 2455, sponsored by Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City. Under the bill, the Missouri Veterans Commission would to follow the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, passed by Congress in 2019.

As we recently reported, the federal legislation arms the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with grants to support groups providing suicide-prevention services. It requires the agency to conduct a feasibility study on implementing "complementary and integrative health services," such as acupuncture or animal therapy, at all VA medical facilities, among a multitude of other studies in mental health care.

Under Griffith's bill, the Missouri Veterans Commission would work with the state Department of Mental Health to provide recommendations and adopt new procedures, programs, treatment options and other measures to prevent veteran suicide.

The commission would provide a report starting in 2023 about the effectiveness of implemented suicide-prevention efforts.

The issue is personal for Griffith, who served in the U.S. Army 8th Special Forces Group as a Green Beret.

"I've had veteran friends of mine that have committed suicide, and you always wonder why didn't somebody reach out to them," he said. "Why didn't I reach out to them? Why didn't I say something? And I think there's a certain amount of guilt that goes along with that."

The bill has gained House approval and now is being considered in the Senate.

Griffith's bill alone won't solve the problem. But it's one more tool that will help. We urge the Senate to approve the bill and send it to the governor.

News Tribune

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