SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Legislation introduced by state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, designed to reduce Veteran suicide passed the General Assembly Sunday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

“As a proud Marine Veteran, I have been focused on finding ways to address the issue of Veteran suicide and end this epidemic,’ Kifowit said. “My hope is that this comprehensive package can serve as a model for other states to implement and work towards eliminating Veteran suicide.”

According to a recent study by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 Veterans commit suicide every day in this country. Kifowit is working to address this crisis by sponsoring a package of reforms streamlining access to existing services for Veterans and providing new accommodations for returning service members as they seek civilian jobs and educational opportunities, all in an effort to end Veteran suicide. The reforms are recommendations of the Illinois Task Force on Veterans’ Suicide, which Kifowit led an effort to create in 2014. A Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Kifowit also served on the panel of legislators, Veterans and their advocates that met throughout the state to gather information and craft legislation that will allow the state to more effectively meet the needs of the Veteran community.

Kifowit introduced House Bill 2647, and passed the bill with bipartisan support in both chambers. Her measure requires the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs (IDVA) to create several programs to better serve Veterans with mental trauma, depression and other service-related mental illnesses. Kifowit’s bill directs IDVA to work with the Federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs to proactively identify Illinois veterans whose service exposed them to situations found to increase the likelihood of suicidal tendencies.

Kifowit’s legislation works to improve the mental health training provided to Veterans’ assistance commissions and other Veterans’ groups. The IDVA would partner with existing Veterans’ associations and military organizations to provide families of returning service members with a family preparation course concerning deployment, discharge, and return of Veterans.

Kifowit’s bill is designed to allow the IDVA to form collaborations and coordinate with various existing Veteran Service Organizations, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, in addition to working with existing non-profit groups to help achieve the goals of this legislation. In addition, the bill recognizes that partnership with the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs is necessary to meet the needs of our Veteran population.

“Our brave service members have sacrificed so much and we have a duty to ensure they receive care not only when they return home, but for the rest of their lives,” Kifowit said. “I urge the governor to quickly sign this measure into law, so we can begin providing better care for our Veterans.”

Rep Stephanie KifowitRep Stephanie Kifowit

84th District

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