Councilman Eric Ulrich, chairman of the City Council Veterans Committee, has introduced new legislation to try and reduce these staggering numbers.
The bill would require 311 operators to connect any caller seeking veterans’ suicide prevention services with the VA’s Crisis Line (VCL). The VCL is a toll-free hotline that connects veterans, their families and friends with mental health counselors who are specially qualified to assist military service members and veterans.
“Those who have borne the battle return home with the invisible wounds of war and unfortunately still face barriers to treatment,” Ulrich said. “We owe it to our veterans, after they’ve sacrificed so much, to ensure that care is easily and readily available. This legislation will strengthen connections between 311 callers, VCL professionals, and the VA resources they need and deserve.”
The VCL was launched in 2007 and has since answered more than 1.1 million calls and made more than 37,000 lifesaving rescues.
John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, expressed his full support for the initiative.
“As evaluations of these types of crisis call services have been shown to reduce emotional distress and suicidal thinking in callers, any means of more effectively and efficiently connecting veterans and military service members to the VCL should be adopted and implemented as soon as possible,” Draper said.
Ulrich also has support from Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who called the legislation “a crucial and commonsense step toward making sure these brave men and women can be immediately connected to quality support and resources they need.”