SACRAMENTO – AB 2325, by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D – Thousand Oaks), prevents counties from denying county mental or behavioral health services to eligible veterans, was signed by the Governor this week.
“Lack of access to critical mental health services may worsen suicidal behavior, especially among young military veterans who have completed multiple combat tours,” said Assemblymember Irwin. “Research has shown that veterans are more likely to suffer from a mental or behavioral health condition than the general population. This bill requires that a veteran cannot be denied county mental or behavioral health services.”
More than 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night in the US. Veterans comprise 25% 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. Better 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. Improved coordination with mental health service providers is needed. This bill will provide the much needed services regardless of whether the veteran is covered by the USDVA.
“Now off the battlefield, our vets shouldn’t have to face another in their efforts to receive much-needed services,” says California Association of Veteran Service Agents Board President Steve Peck. “Thank you to Assembly Irwin for carrying this legislation and to Governor Brown for signing it creating greater access to mental health services for those veterans who need it.”
In some instances, veterans who reach out for help from County Mental Health services are turned away and directed to the V.A. AB 2325 will ensure that this doesn't happen.