Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Life-Saving Legislation for Troops

There is no better time than Veteran's Day to announce an important piece of legislation that has become law, thanks to our friend and colleague, Matt Kuntz, Executive Director of NAMI Montana, and Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus.

The legislation requires medical screenings for returning combat troops to help identify and treat post-combat related behavioral health issues.

The legislation, which is modeled after a program currently used by the Montana National Guard, requires the military to provide screening for every Soldier, Marine, Airman or Sailor before he or she deploys to combat as well as six, 12 and 24 months after their return. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that once fully implemented, this new requirement would result in the need for an additional 150,000 mental health assessments every year.

The purpose of this screening is to identify Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicidal tendencies and other behavioral health issues to identify which service members are in need of additional health care and treatment.

Matt Kuntz, who was the keynote speaker at NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania's 2009 annual conference, championed this effort in memory of his step-brother Chris Dana, who died by post-traumatic stress related-suicide 16 months after he returned from Iraq.

"I can't tell you how much I've appreciated NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania's support throughout this advocacy effort," Kuntz said. "Your efforts will make a major difference in the lives of service members and their families."

To read the full press release and see video footage of Sen. Baucus, click here.