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Senators introduce bill to strengthen mental health support for Native veterans

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Senator Moran has helped to introduce a bill to strengthen mental health support for Native veterans.

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) says he and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) joined together to recently introduce legislation to ensure culturally competent mental health care for American Indian veterans is given at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Moran indicated that the bill, the American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Mental Health Act, would require each VA medical center to hire a minority veteran coordinator trained in delivering mental health and suicide prevention service that are culturally appropriate for Native veterans.

“American war heroes come from every corner of our country, and as they transition out of the military, the VA must work to make certain all veterans have access to care,” Moran said. “This legislation would provide specific mental health outreach for American Indian veterans, who often live in rural or medically underserved areas, and training for VA staff to better serve veterans in the American Indian community.”

The Senator also said the bill would require each facility’s minority veteran coordinator to work with a suicide prevention coordinator to contact local tribal leadership, consult with them on mental health care delivery and provide the VA medical center director with a yearly written plan for specific outreach.

“Native veterans need assurance that they’ll get top-notch assistance when seeking earned care from VA—especially when it comes to their mental health,” Tester said. “Our bipartisan bill will ensure VA facilities in Montana and beyond are working directly with Tribes on the ground to strengthen outreach and connect more veterans with the mental health care they deserve.”

Recently, Moran also noted that the pair led a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing to discuss the VA’s efforts to address the needs of American Indian veterans. During the hearing, officials were questioned on a variety of issues which include providing culturally competent mental health care and partnering with tribes to develop suicide prevention programs.

Moran indicated that Congresswoman Juli Brownley (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

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