Wilson launches effort to provide ‘Mental Health for Heroes’

With mental health issues on the rise for veterans, Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, announced the result of a collaborative effort with two institutions of higher education to provide support for veterans: the Mental Health for Heroes Act.

“Those who have given the highest level of service should receive the support and care of their community,” said Wilson, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Many veterans are on their way to starting new careers and areas of study after their service. They deserve to have the veteran-specific mental health services they need to manage the transition to a happy and successful civilian life.”

Mental Health for Heroes, Senate Bill 5525, would require the six four-year baccalaureate universities in Washington to have full-time counselors who specialize in veteran-specific mental health issues on staff and available to the service members as well as their spouses and dependents.

The Washington Department of Health lists veterans as a high risk group for suicide. In data studied between 2010 and 2012, veterans accounted for 23 percent of suicides in Washington although they only made up for 8.5 percent of the population. Many veterans do not have access to the care they need at the federal Veterans Administration and colleges are the crucial transitional institution in the move to civilian life.

“Many of these men and women bear invisible wounds or struggle with the transition to the next phase of their lives,” said Wilson. “These mental health services could be the link to their future success and could even save a life.”