SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr., D-Elwood, designed to reduce veteran suicide passed the General Assembly Sunday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
“Our brave service members sacrifice so much for our country and I want to make sure they are cared for after they return home,” Walsh said. “These reforms will make Illinois a leader in ending veteran suicide.”
According to a recent study by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in this country. Walsh is working to address this crisis by sponsoring a package of reforms to streamline access to existing services for veterans and to provide new accommodations for returning service members as they seek civilian jobs and educational opportunities, all in an effort to end veteran suicide.
Walsh sponsored House Bill 2647, and passed the bill with bipartisan support in both chambers. His 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. Walsh’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.
Walsh’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.
Walsh’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.
“We owe a tremendous debt to our veterans and I am committed to ensuring we expand and protect the mental health services they rely on,” Walsh said. “I am hopeful these reforms can serve as a model for the rest of the nation in caring for our veterans and returning service members.”