Assemblymember Irwin Bill Ensuring Access to Mental Health Services for Military Veterans Passes Assembly
SACRAMENTO –Assembly Bill 2325 by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin prevents a county from denying county mental or behavioral health services to an eligible veteran, regardless of whether that veteran might be covered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill passed the Assembly last week and now heads to the State Senate.
“Research has shown that veterans are more likely to suffer from a mental or behavioral health condition than the general population,” said Assemblymember Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks. “Lack of access to critical mental health services may worsen suicidal behavior, especially among young military veterans who have completed multiple combat tours. This bill protects a veteran from being denied county mental or behavioral health services.”
More than 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night in the U.S. Veterans comprise 25 percent or more of California’s homeless population, an estimated 35,000 people. Additionally, recent data on suicide rates among army veterans, reported by the Department of Defense (DOD), showed an increase of more than 18% from 2011 to 2014. Improved and more accessible mental health services would combat not only mental illness, but homelessness and suicide rates as well.
Mental health resources are not always readily available at USDVA facilities, due to a shortage of critical mental health personnel and a general lack of support in addressing mental health crises. As a result, veterans who do not rely primarily on the VA system to address their mental health needs do not have easy access to these critical crisis-intervention services. Better coordination with mental health service providers is needed.
AB 2325 ensures that veterans who reach out for help from County Mental Health services are provided help rather than turned away and directed to the V.A.
Earlier this month, AB 2325 passed through the Assembly Health Committee (15-0).
Assemblymember Irwin’s website: http://asmdc.org/irwin