Bill would strengthen public-private partnerships that support mental health programs for troops
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has joined Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in introducing bipartisan legislation that would improve mental health care services for members of the National Guard and Reserve. The Joining Forces for Military Mental Health Act would improve the coordination of research, treatment, education and outreach of mental health, substance abuse disorders, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) among members of the National Guard and Reserve and their families.
While most active duty service members return from deployments to military bases where they have access to quality mental health services, members of the National Guard and Reserve often return from a tour of duty and transition into civilian life far from military bases and without easy access to the care they need, making it more difficult to transition back into family life and their careers.
The legislation would allow the Secretary of Defense to carry out a limited pilot program consisting of five competitive, merit-based grants to community partners that engage in research, treatment, education, and outreach programs for TBI, mental health, and substance abuse disorders among our National Guard and Reserve members. The bill does not authorize additional funding; rather, the funds would be derived from amounts currently available for Defense Health Programs in the defense budget. Every $1 of existing federal funding devoted to these grants would require the community partner to invest $3.
"Our National Guard and Reserve members, who have served and sacrificed so much for our country, deserve the very best care available," said Senator Ayotte. "This legislation establishes a collaborative and fiscally sound effort between the Department of Defense and community partners that would help improve access to needed mental health services for National Guard and Reserve members and help ease their transition back into civilian life as they return from deployment."
The legislation has been endorsed by the National Guard Association of the United States.