- Associated Press - Sunday, December 15, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said he believes legislation that recently cleared the Congress will improve suicide prevention and mental health resources for veterans.

The Rhode Island Democrat co-sponsored the Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act, which requires the comptroller general to assess the responsibilities, workload and vacancy rates for suicide prevention coordinators at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Reed praised the Senate for passing the bill last week. Since the House of Representatives already approved the legislation, the bill now heads to the president’s desk.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this year aimed at stemming a persistently high number of veteran suicides, urging expanded outreach by awarding grants to community programs. The order created a Cabinet-level task force to develop a national roadmap for suicide prevention.

VA statistics show suicide prevention coordinators are managing care for almost 11,000 veterans who are clinically at high-risk for suicide, said Reed, who served in the Army. Reed worked on the bill with Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, of Alaska, the lead sponsor.

“The wounds and scars of war and continued deployments are not always visible, and we’ve got to provide veterans with high quality physical and mental health care,” Reed said in a statement.

Separately, Reed proposed shortening the 10-digit national suicide prevention hotline to three digits. The Federal Communications Commission endorsed that idea Thursday.

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