OLYMPIA — On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to advance a measure to establish programs to prevent suicide among veterans and service members in Washington.
Military service members, veterans and their families are at increased risk of being affected by suicide. Veterans make up just 7% of Washington residents, but account for 19% of all suicides in the state. Over the past five years, nearly 1,000 veterans have committed suicide in Washington.
“This bill is about saving lives, the lives of those who have served our country. Sadly, across the country, we lose twenty veterans a day to suicide. Veterans are 52% more likely to commit suicide than civilians who have never served. In Washington, we have over 500,000 veterans who stood up for our rights and protected our freedoms; it’s our turn to protect them by giving them the resources they need. said state Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, lead sponsor of House Bill 1181.
A member of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs and co-chair of the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs, Orwall is committed to working on measures that support those who have served or are currently serving. in our armed forces. She has also worked tirelessly on suicide prevention measures since her election.
This bill deals with a key quality of life issue. Many veterans are homeless, more than half have mental health issues, and many feel misunderstood by the providers they receive care from. These problems have only increased, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Orwall served on the Governor’s Challenges team examining best practices across the country to prevent veteran suicide. His bill contains the recommendations of this task force, led by the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Bill 1181 will enable your Washington Department of Veterans Affairs and our partners to engage our Washington communities in preventing veteran, military, and family member suicide through education, volunteerism, and their financial support,” said Washington State Department Director Alfie Alvarado. veterans (DVA).
With the passage of Orwall’s bill, the Washington DVA will provide an online database for military and veterans of mental health and suicide prevention resources.
- Strongly encourages health care providers to “ask the question”, i.e. ask new patients if they are veterans, military or family members of one or other. If so, they will receive suicide prevention materials, developed by the DOH and DVA, which will include web-based resources for various veteran and military suicide awareness and prevention services.
- Extends and modifies the Suicide-Safer Homes Task Force to continue its work promoting the safe storage of lethal means, including firearms and drugs.
- Establishes the Veteran and Military Suicide Prevention Account and Suicide Prevention Community Services Grant Program to support veteran peer programs that can effectively engage isolated veterans in the community.
- Establishes a new 988 vehicle license plate emblem to help fund veteran suicide prevention work.
Last year, the legislature approved Orwall’s Bill 1477, to implement the 988 suicide prevention hotline which is due to begin this summer. Building on that work, this session she partnered with Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, to modify portions of HB 1181 on the house floor to include the requirement that any public works project built after July 1, 2024, must have a sign displaying the National Behavioral Health Crisis and Suicide Prevention Line 988.
House Bill 1181 is now heading to the Senate for consideration.