On October 17, President Donald Trump signed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (Hannon Act, PL 116-171) into law. The legislation funds various strategies to prevent suicide among veterans, including creating a multimillion-dollar grant program for state and local organizations.
Of interest for counties, the Hannon Act provides up to $174 million over the next five years to state and local organizations that provide suicide prevention services to veterans and their families. Implementation of this program will hopefully include county veteran service offices (CVSOs) as eligible recipients. The program intends to create better collaboration between community-based organizations and the VA to better identify veterans at risk of suicide, giving mental health providers more time to intervene.
The Hannon Act also requires the VA to establish a plan for boosting its mental health staff and research and creates a scholarship program to increase staff at Veterans Centers. It also seeks to improve access to mental health care for rural veterans in particular by expanding the number of locations for VA telehealth services veterans.
Counties play a central role in helping veterans access a range of service-connected federal benefits (including health care) by funding CVSOs in thirty-six states. We support efforts to strengthen community treatment for veteran mental health concerns and encourage increased federal resources for suicide prevention, including this new law.
To learn more about this legislation and other resources for county leaders in support veteran mental health, register for NACo’s upcoming webinar, Veteran Suicide Prevention: Strategies for County Leaders.