This week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a state invoice Senator Danny BurgessR-Zephyrhills and state Representative Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, to “establish a pilot program directing the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs to provide every county and city veterans service officer with specialized training and certification in veteran suicide prevention” in the law.
According to Diamond’s office, the new law allows “Veterans Services Officers (VSOs) participating in the program to receive training to provide emergency crisis counseling to veterans who are experiencing an emotional health crisis or mental”.
Lawmakers weighed in on the bill when they defended it in January.
“The statistics tell a devastating story; our heroes need help,” said Burgess, who served as executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. “Fortunately, Florida is committed to protecting those who have protected us. Our Veterans Services Officers are on the front lines daily as the first point of contact for veterans in crisis. This pilot program provides specialized training supplement to our VSOs with a focus on suicide prevention.”
“The veteran suicide epidemic is both unacceptable and preventable. More than 1.5 million veterans live in Florida, and we owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never fully repay,” Diamond said. “We have a responsibility to honor their service with the support they need to thrive. The Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot Program will strengthen state and local efforts to improve veterans’ access to quality mental health care and end the epidemic of veteran suicide.
Diamond’s office provided insight into the impact of veteran suicide on the Sunshine State.
“Each year, more than 500 veterans in Florida commit suicide. Despite a federal report suggesting a decrease in veteran suicides in 2019, the Veterans’ Helpline, a national crime prevention hotline suicide 24/7 reported a significant increase in calls, online chats and text messages since 2020. The Tampa Bay Crisis Center also reported an increase in suicide crisis and prevention calls noted Diamond’s office.
Diamond weighed in after DeSantis signed him on Wednesday.
“At all levels of government, we have a moral obligation to provide the highest quality care to our veterans. The Veterans Suicide Prevention Training Pilot Program will increase the local mental health care resources available to veterans. brave men and women who I have answered the call to serve our nation. I am grateful to Senate Patron Senator Danny Burgess and House Co-Sponsor Representative David Smith for working alongside me. to pass this important legislation, which will save lives and help end the epidemic of veteran suicide.