Since the passage of the Clay Hunt SAV Act in 2015, we’ve seen great strides in health care for mental health injuries and suicide prevention. But when 46 percent of IAVA members report service-connected PTSD and the VA reports that 18 to 34 year old veterans have the highest rate of suicide, we know our work is not nearly done.
We’ve been keeping a close eye on the implementation of the Clay Hunt SAV Act as its provisions have been put into place at the VA. Last year, we gave you an update on the implementation and some of the challenges we were hearing about. While many of those updates remain the same a year later, there are few developments we want you to know about.
Third-Party Evaluation of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Programs at VA
The final report from the third party evaluators is expected in just a few short months to Congress. This report will provide feedback from veterans who receive care at the VA on their satisfaction with the services VA provides. The interim report from 2017 showed that most veterans were happy with their VA mental health care and we look forward to seeing the final report in coming months.
Loan payback program for psychiatrists
This provision within the Clay Hunt SAV Act has been the hardest and slowest moving of all. Funding for the program has been lacking, making it hard to the program to get off the ground. However, VA has said that the next round of applicants will be eligible for this program, and we look forward to seeing this provision within Clay Hunt launch. Overall, we are concerned about the number of mental health providers at VA and available to veterans in need of support; we believe this provision will aid in ensuring veterans have access to the mental health support they need.
Peer Support Pilot Programs
There is some exciting news when it comes to the peer support programs created under the Clay Hunt SAV Act. In March, a funding bill from Congress provided $10 million to these previously unfunded pilot programs. That meant that the programs expanded from 5 sites to 10, including a few highly rural sites! A final report on the effectiveness and outcomes from these pilot programs is due to Congress before the end of the year, and we look forward to seeing the results.
The Clay Hunt SAV Act was an important piece of legislation that moved the needle on many of the mental health access issues veterans face. But, there is still so much work left to do. That’s why the Campaign to Combat Suicide is still a top priorities, and we will continue to work with the VA, DoD, our VSO partners, and other stakeholders to ensure veterans are getting the care and access they deserve.