It is more important than ever to ensure Kansans, veterans and the entire country have access to quality mental health and suicide prevention services. Improvements to these services will benefit Kansans struggling with mental illness in communities across our state and will go far in ending the stigma surrounding preventative mental health care. Timely access to diagnosis, treatment options, or immediate care can be the difference between life and death as well as potentially prevent a host of connected health and safety issues. In order to improve the efficiency and accessibility of mental health services, state and local governments need flexibility to tailor and implement mental health care to the unique needs of their respective patient populations, and to make sure these essential services reach the individuals who need them most. Through improved awareness, increased screenings and access to treatment, mental health problems can be addressed sooner and more effectively.
I will continue to support funding for critical mental health services through my position on the Senate Appropriations Committee in conjunction with my work on legislation to improve mental health and suicide prevention services from my seats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, including implementation of my bipartisan bill that designates 9-8-8 as the suicide prevention hotline. Now, more than ever, Kansans and the entire country will benefit from greater access to critical suicide prevention and mental health services and the 9-8-8 hotline provides an easy-to-remember and easy-to-access service for people to dial when they need a helping hand.
As the lead Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I also authored the Commander John Scott Hannon Mental Health Care Improvement Act to improve mental health care for veterans seeking care through the VA. This bill, which was signed into law by President Trump in 2020, is bolstering the VA’s mental health workforce, increasing access to care for rural veterans and supporting alternative and local treatment options for veterans seeking mental health care. Many of our veterans are suffering from daunting mental health challenges but previously lacked access to modern, effective, and compassionate mental health care and suicide prevention services. The Commander Hannon Act is reforming how the VA provides mental health services and is increasing collaboration with local community organizations that serve veterans. Veteran suicide rates remain too high, but this bill takes necessary steps to expand care options to those struggling with their mental health. I will not stop advocating for VA mental health care reform until the risk of veteran suicides is extinguished.