The Servicemember and Veteran Mental Health Care Package
The Servicemember and Veteran Mental Health Care Package ("Care Package") aims to improve mental health outcomes for servicemembers.
Provisions from the "Care Package" were signed into law as part of the national defense bill.
The package aims to improve care through:
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The "Care Package" will continue the progress made by the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, which was signed into law late last year, and requires an annual mental health assessment for all servicemembers - Active, Guard, and Reserve. For more information, click here.
While the Sexton Act required mental health assessments for all servicemembers, the Care Package focuses on improving the quality of care available through DoD or community mental health providers.
Update, November 25, 2015: Provisions in the "Care Package signed into law with the national defense bill.
If you or a servicemember or veteran you know, might be dealing with mental health concerns, please click here.
- November 25, 2015: Mental health care provisions in Donnelly's "Care Package" signed into law as part of the national defense bill.
- November 10, 2015: Provisions from Donnelly’s “Care Package” passed the Senate by a vote of 91-3 as part of the national defense bill. The bill went to President Obama to be signed into law.
- October 7, 2015: The national defense bill passed the Senate, but was vetoed by President Obama.
- October 6, 2015: Donnelly testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs committee and emphasized the importance of training private, community mental health providers to better treat servicemembers and veterans.
- October 1, 2015: The Department of Defense released a report on military suicides in the second quarter of 2015. More than 200 servicemembers were lost to suicide in the first half of 2015.
- July 21, 2015: Donnelly questioned General Mark A. Milley, nominee to be Chief of Staff of the Army, on pushing suicide prevention education and intervention down the chain of command to peers and immediate supervisors during a Senate Armed Services committee hearing.
- July 10, 2015: The Department of Defense released a report on military suicides in the first quarter of 2015.
Donnelly said, “This Pentagon report yet again reminds us that much work remains to address the scourge of military suicide. There are no easy solutions, but I believe Congress can play a role in improving mental health care for our servicemembers and helping to prevent military suicide. I continue to work nonstop on legislation that seeks to improve mental health care for our servicemembers and veterans, and hope that Congress will finish its work on the national defense bill soon, so it can be signed by President Obama.”
- June 25, 2015: Donnelly co-sponsored and the Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution to designate June 2015 as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month. The designation increases awareness among the Armed Forces, veterans, military families, and the public about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- June 23, 2015: Donnelly met with representatives from Indiana’s chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and discussed his “Care Package”.
- June 18, 2015: The Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 71-25, which included provisions from Donnelly’s “Care Package”.
- June 10, 2015: Donnelly pushed for passage of his “Care package” during a floor speech in which he remembered the lives of SPC. Chancellor Keesling and SPC. Jacob Sexton, two service members who committed suicide.
- May 27, 2015: Donnelly held a roundtable discussion on his Community Provider Readiness Recognition Act, one of three bills in his “Care Package”- Roundtable participants included representatives from Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute (MFRI), the Indiana National Guard, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, several Hoosier mental health care community providers, and family members of those lost to suicide or who are suffering from post-traumatic stress.
- May 14, 2015: The Senate Armed Services Committee approved military mental health provisions from Donnelly’s “Care Package” for inclusion in this year’s national defense bill. The Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
- May 4, 2015: Representatives from the National Guard Association of the United States, the Military Officers Association, Reserve Officers Association, National Military Family Association, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention met with Donnelly and discussed his “Care Package” and expressed their support for the bipartisan bills.
- March 18, 2015: Secretary of the Army John McHugh expressed his desire to work with Donnelly on his “Care Package” in response to the Senator’s line of questioning during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
- March 11, 2015: Donnelly introduced his “Care Package", three bipartisan bills to help improve mental health outcomes for servicemembers and veterans. Donnelly serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is working to build on the progress made by his Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, which was signed into law late last year and requires an annual mental health assessment for all servicemembers—Active, Guard, and Reserve.
The following organizations have expressed their support for the "Care Package":
Shelley Wadsworth MacDermid, Director, Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University, said, "We applaud Senator Donnelly’s outstanding commitment to addressing the psychological health of service members, veterans and their families. There is a significant need for community-based behavioral health training, and we at MFRI are proud to have helped to create Star Behavioral Health Providers, which makes care more accessible and builds important infrastructure to also support members of the Indiana National Guard and Reserves in their communities."
John Madigan, Vice President of Public Policy, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said, “Once again, Indiana’s Senator Joe Donnelly is leading the way to combat military suicide. Joe’s tireless, bipartisan efforts to make sure the national defense bill included his ‘Servicemember and Veteran Mental Health Care’ package will help save lives. Whether it’s providing specially-trained mental health providers for veterans and servicemembers, requiring DOD primary care and mental health care providers to receive evidence-based training on suicide-risk recognition and management or training physician assistants to specialize in psychiatric care to meet increased needs; Joe Donnelly knows what it will take to keep mental health services going to all of our veterans and servicemembers. Thank you Senator Donnelly.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, President, National Guard Association of the United States, said, “National Guardsmen and their families across the country greatly appreciate Senator Donnelly listening and leading on mental-health issues,” said. “With Senator Donnelly’s bipartisan ‘Servicemember and Veteran Mental Health Care’ package becoming law, it will mean those struggling with invisible wounds can find the care they need and we owe them, including access to trained community providers.”
Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, Jr., President, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), said, “The signing of the defense bill into law is vital to fulfilling commitments to our servicemembers, veterans and their families,” said “MOAA is grateful to Senator Donnelly for championing the Servicemember and Veteran Mental Health Care Package, a significant provision in the legislation which would expand access to quality mental health care. Never in our country’s history has the health and wellness of our warriors and their families been more important than it is today to our national security.”
Jeffrey Phillips, Executive Director, Reserve Officers Association, said, “ROA applauds passage of Sen. Joe Donnelly’s mental health care provisions just signed into law as part of the defense authorization bill. In an ROA survey, Guard and Reserve members explained stigma exists as a result of mental health problems. The new avenues of access included in the defense bill will help to overcome these types of issues.”
Joyce Raezer, Executive Director, National Military Family Association, said, “We appreciate Senator Donnelly’s continued support for service members and their families, especially his efforts to address the military community’s well-documented shortage of culturally competent mental health providers utilizing evidence-based treatments.”
Senator Donnelly originally introduced the "Care Package" in March 2015 as three bipartisan bills, each aimed at improving mental health outcomes for servicemembers. The provisions of each bill included and passed in the national defense bill are outlined below.
(co-sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi)
This legislation will require DoD:
- Requires DoD primary care and mental health providers to receive evidence-based training on suicide risk recognition and management.
- Mandates training be updated to keep pace with changes in mental health care best practices.
(co-sponsored by Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa)
This provision is inspired by the Star Behavioral Health Provider Network, a program led by Purdue's Military Family Research Institute.
This legislation will:
- Establish a special designation for private sector, community mental health providers who demonstrate - either through training or past experience - a strong knowledge of military culture and evidence-based therapies for mental health issues common to veterans and servicemembers.
- Creates a regularly-updated online registry, so veterans and servicemembers can search for these specially-designated community providers in their area.
(co-sponsored by Senator John Boozman, R-Arkansas)
This legislation will:
- Urge DoD to train physician assistants to help meet increasing demand for mental health services among servicemembers and their families.