SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Legislation introduced by State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, and State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, designed to reduce Veteran suicide is now law.
“Even though this legislation was signed without a ceremony or recognition, this is truly a great day for all our Veterans in our state,” Kifowit said. “Illinois will now lead the nation in the effort to end Veteran suicide. The reforms contained in this package will serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow and help Veterans across Illinois. Illinois is sending a strong message that we will be there for our Veterans”.
According to a recent study by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 Veterans commit suicide every day in this country. Kifowit and Cullerton have worked 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 worked 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. Cullerton, a U.S. Army Veteran also served on the Veteran Suicide Taskforce and sponsored the legislation in the Senate.
“As a Veteran, I have seen firsthand how mental health has affected my fellow Veterans,” Cullerton said. “These reforms are going to help save lives and improve the health of our brave service members.”
Kifowit and Cullerton introduced House Bill 2647, and passed the bill with bipartisan support in both chambers. Their 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. Their 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.
“I would like to thank Representative Kifowit and Senator Cullerton for working so diligently to bring awareness to the issue of Veteran suicide and helping improve the lives of all of our service members,” said Gary Hanson of American Legion Post 84. “The reforms in this legislation are going to not only help our new returning Veterans, but Veterans from all wars.”
Kifowit and Cullerton’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 and Cullerton’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.
“Representative Kifowit and Senator Cullerton are both true advocates for the veteran community” said Iraq veteran Darian G. Blanks, Sr. “As a two-time suicide attempt survivor myself, this law will help ensure the emotional scars of the brave men and women of this country are tended to promptly and properly. I’m pleased to see those who have sacrificed so much have not been forgotten.”
Visit Rep Kifowit’s website
200-1S Stratton Office Building
Springfield, IL 62706
1677 Montgomery Rd.
Aurora, IL 60504
(630) 585-1357 FAX