San Juan Capistrano, CA – U.S. Representative Mike Levin led a virtual Veteran Suicide Prevention Summit on Friday with leaders from the from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), local health experts, elected officials, and others. Nearly 100 local veterans and veteran advocates participated in a discussion that Rep. Levin led with Dr. Robert Smith and Dr. Neal Doran from the VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Jim Desmond, and other local leaders about opportunities for stronger collaboration to address the public health crisis of veteran suicide.
“We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to prevent veteran suicide, and that must include strong coordination between local health providers, Veterans Service Organizations, and other advocates,” said Rep. Levin. “North County San Diego and South Orange County are homes to tens of thousands of veterans and military families, and I was proud to bring together local experts and advocates who are committed to improving the support services needed to prevent veteran suicide. We know that we have much more work to do together to improve local coordination and strengthen services, but we’re committed to doing that hard work and saving lives.”
As Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Rep. Levin is working to ensure that veterans have access to transition assistance, housing, jobs, and all of the other resources that might help prevent a veteran from taking his or her life due to their economic circumstances. Earlier this year, he led two Congressional hearings that focus on that goal - strengthening economic supports - by addressing veteran hunger and housing insecurity. Last week, he introduced legislation to strengthen the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) by improving counseling pathways for servicemembers returning to civilian life, which is critical to address veteran suicide that can often be driven by economic distress. Rep. Levin also recently introduced the Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020 and the Homeless Veteran Coronavirus Response Act to support veterans who are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Rep. Levin cosponsored several other bills to address veteran suicide, including a bipartisan bill to launch the Zero Suicide Initiative Pilot Program at the VA, and a bill to require that veterans receive culturally competent, evidence-based mental health treatment from private mental health providers.