House Committee Works to Address Mental Health Concerns of Veterans
Dear Citizens: House members are concerned about the mental health of veterans in Missouri, and by how many of the state’s veterans have committed suicide. The House Interim Committee on Veterans’ Mental Health and Suicide recently held its first of four scheduled hearings. The committee’s first hearing focused on what is already available and what is being done to offer help to veterans.
The committee’s chairman is a former U.S. Army 8th Special Forces Group Green Beret. He said part of his goal with the committee is to generate awareness of the issues veterans are facing and how they can be helped.
He said, “It’s meant to shine a light on mental health issues and suicide that we’ve got in the State of Missouri and what we can do with it. It begins with the veteran community but it also goes back to what happens in each one of our communities across the state. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the metro or whether you live in rural Missouri. The issues are still there and we see it all the time.”
In discussing how serious this issue is in Missouri, the Department of Mental Health’s Veterans Services Director told the committee that in 2019 the national veteran suicide rate was 31.6. Missouri’s rate was 43.4.
He told the committee, “Even though Missouri does not have the highest rate of veteran suicide, which is a plus, we are still very high – definitely in the top ten in the nation. Regardless of these rates we know that any suicide death, one or more is too many, so the goal is zero.”
The Missouri Veterans Commission Executive Director told the committee the commission launched a website in 2021 to provide resources for veterans and their families. Located at www.veteranbenefits.mo.gov, the site includes helpful information on mental health.
The director said, “It’s one that we know is a priority so it is prominent on our portal.” He noted that the site has received 20,000 hits to date, but needs more. “It’s not enough,” he said. “We need more. We need more veterans, we need more families to know about this and know that it is a site that they can go to reach resources that they need.” The committee will meet again in August.
Missouri Recognized as Leader in Election Security (HB 1878) – As Missourians went to the polls on Tuesday, they did so with the knowledge that Missouri has some of the most secure elections in the country. Missouri’s election security will be further strengthened on August 28 when House Bill 1878 takes effect to implement a photo ID requirement along with other election integrity measures.
Lawmakers approved House Bill 1878 earlier this year and Gov. Parson signed the legislation into law. The bill contains a number of provisions designed to ensure safe, secure elections with timely, accurate results. It will require Missourians to present a photo ID when they go to vote, but will also allow people without a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot. It also requires the use of hand-marked paper ballots rather than electronic voting machines, mandates the use of air-gapped election equipment that prevents the possibility of electronic manipulation, authorizes the Secretary of State to audit election results, and requires all election authorities or political subdivisions to have cybersecurity reviews.
Because of the efforts of the General Assembly to approve House Bill 1878 during the 2022 General Assembly, the America First Policy Institute’s (AFPI) Center for Election Integrity recently recognized Missouri as a nationwide leader in election integrity.
For more information, contact Representative Patricia Pike at Patricia.Pike@house.mo.gov or call