Following the unanimous passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act by the U.S. Senate earlier this week, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined local families of veterans whose loved ones committed suicide.
At a press conference in Hartford Friday, Blumenthal and the families of three veterans spoke about the importance of the legislation.
The bill attempts to curb suicide rates among military veterans, which federal officials estimate results in 22 deaths daily. It requires an independent and outside review of the Department of Veteran Affairs suicide prevention services, enhances outreach to veterans, and tries to attract more psychiatrists into VA clinics and hospitals with tuition breaks.
“Every day, we lose 22 of our nation’s military heroes, not to enemy fire, but to suicide,” Blumenthal said. “This crisis called out for immediate action, and I am gratified that Congress made combatting veteran suicide a first priority in this new session.”
The implementation of the bill will present an “overwhelming, all-hands-on-deck commitment” for supporting veterans and their families at home, according to Blumenthal. Programs will include providing more access for veterans to psychiatrists and mental health officials, more education for families, and a larger monetary commitment to psychiatric facilities.
Joanna Eldridge, widow of Waterford Marine Justin Eldridge who took his life after struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, campaigned for passage of the bill.
“His life now will not be in vain. I am very thankful that his children will get to see the benefits of this and that saying something really does make a difference,” Eldridge said.
Cindy Dubuque, sister of Army veteran Lisa Silberstein, who committed suicide three years ago, spoke about the stigma that surrounds mental health. “I know that Lisa would be happy today to see the progress that we’ve made, and I’m grateful though saddened that it has taken so much time.”
Jennifer Huber, sister-in-law of Marine David “Rick” Findley, who committed suicide this past December, said he had big plans.
“He wanted to start a family with my sister and finish his degree,” she said. “Our country needs to do everything possible to help our veterans so that they can live long enough to make their plans a reality.”
Blumenthal said he spoke with a member of the Obama administration and has “every confidence” the president will sign the bill.