On Wednesday, May 7, Senators Joe Donnelly and Roger Wicker introduced the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014. The bill establishes a uniform standard across all the military services to ensure that every servicemember receives a quality mental health assessment every year. This applies for Active, Guard and Reserve members alike. Consistent with existing requirements for deployment mental health assessments, these annual screenings must include a person-to-person interaction and a review of relevant health records. Most servicemembers already meet this requirement through a variety of different mental health screening requirements in each of the services. This cost-effective, commonsense approach allows the services to maximize the use of their existing programs while closing the gaps left open among disparate policies.
The Sexton Act takes the focus of suicide prevention away from deployments, which research has shown is not always correlated to military suicides, and ensures that mental health is evaluated as a central component of a servicemember’s overall readiness.
What this bill does:
- Sets a uniform standard of annual person-to-person mental health assessments for all servicemembers, including members of the Active, Guard and Reserve.
- Improves DOD accountability by requiring an annual report analyzing the annual screenings and follow-up care rates.
- Establishes an interagency working group between DOD and HHS to improve access to mental health services for members of the National Guard and Reserve who do not benefit from the same military health care options as their Active Duty counterparts.
- Requires DOD to submit a report to Congress with evaluations and recommendations regarding specific tools, processes and best practices to improve the military’s identification, intervention and treatment policies and programs in relation to mental health conditions and traumatic brain injury.