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Bill looks to put money in local communities to fight veteran suicide

WASHINGTON — Over the last ten years, Congress has tripled the Department of Veterans Affairs’ funding for suicide prevention efforts more than $200 million.

But one bill could put more of a focus on funding in local communities.

“We have 17 American veterans a day who commit suicide. That is a national tragedy,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) said.

Warner says more must be done to prevent veteran suicide. He’s introduced a bill to help combat this crisis.

“It would put money into the community to make sure veterans know where to turn on suicide assistance and prevention groups,” Warner said.

He says the “Improve Well-being for Veterans Act” would provide money for local and state-level services through non-profit organizations.

“Anything we can do to lower that number of suicides today is a step in the right direction,” Warner said.

A 2019 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs says more than 6,000 veterans have died because of suicide since 2008. Since 2005, that rate has been increasing.

“It takes people. It takes interaction. It takes engagement,” Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesperson Terrence Hayes said.

Hayes believes national support helps, but it’s really a problem that will be solved at the community level.

“Having those community members, those neighbors, all those people that they come in contact with to actually be a part of the solution, I think that’s a great start,” Hayes said.

Warner says he worked closely with Arkansas Republican Sen. John Boozman on this piece of legislation and is confident the bill will pass.

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