O’Halleran Cosponsors Bills to Strengthen and Expand Mental Health Resources for Veterans

September 10, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Last week, at the start of Suicide Prevention Month, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) joined as an original cosponsor of H.R. 8144, the VA Mental Health Staffing Act, and H.R. 8145, the VA Mental Health Counseling Act, to address gaps in staffing and services available to veterans and to expand comprehensive, accessible mental health care.

“Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. In Arizona, veterans are twice as likely to die by suicide, and far too many veterans lack access to the support and resources they need when they return home,” said O’Halleran. “Suicide Prevention Month is an important reminder of the critical need for quality, accessible mental health care for veterans and families across our country. I am proud to join my colleagues as an original cosponsor of these commonsense bills that will work to connect more veterans with the care and resources they deserve.”

The VA Mental Health Staffing Act directs the VA to review its mental health staffing plan and report back to Congress about how many mental health care provider positions are necessary, how many are unfulfilled, and how the Department plans to address those gaps, including geographically-specific recruitment and retention initiatives.

The VA Mental Health Counseling Act directs the VA to develop individual occupational series and separate staffing plans for licensed professional mental health counselors (LPMHCs) and marriage and family therapists (MFTs).

Both pieces of legislation are endorsed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Mental Health Counselors Association, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, DAV, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Minority Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Modern Military Association of America, Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The VA Mental Health Staffing Act has also been endorsed by American Psychiatric Association and Association of VA Psychologist Leaders.

Last February, O’Halleran cosponsored the bipartisan Phoenix VA Congressional Oversight Act to hold the Phoenix VA accountable to servicemembers and veterans, and this year, O’Halleran cosponsored the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act to establish a national three-digit suicide prevention hotline and make mental health resources more available.