HARRISBURG — With the Pentagon reporting 150 confirmed and suspected suicides taking place among active duty troops in the Army in 2013, clearly additional and/or improved mental health services are needed for our men and women in uniform, and Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-160), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Services Committee, is seeking solutions.
Prior to a recent meeting of the Pennsylvania House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee’ Subcommittee on Military and Veterans Facilities on veterans programs and services, Barrar took part in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa) and U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa) to discuss the importance of mental health care for military service members and veterans.
“As a veteran myself, I am fully aware of how difficult it can be to manage the mental stress of being in the military, especially during wartime. The number of suicides and those dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression issues in the military is a great concern,” said Barrar. “As a lawmaker, I also know one of the areas where we can most improve upon is the health care, including mental health services, we provide to our military men and women and our veterans. We can and should do better. That is why I am constantly working to better services at the state level and took part in talking with my federal counterparts to see what we can do to improve services at the national level.”
Earlier this year, Barrar supported passage of legislation, which was signed into law as Act 86 of 2014, to allow psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors the ability to obtain a volunteer license to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families outside of an approved clinic setting through programs such as “Give an Hour.” This allows veterans and military personnel to receive services in less intimating settings such as a church, library or community center.
“I am always looking for ways in which to maximize the availability and accessibility of veterans’ services,” said Barrar. “During the roundtable meeting with Senator Toomey and Congressman Thompson, we had the opportunity to discuss legislative efforts to provide better health care to military members at the federal level. I was impressed by their passion for this issue, and look forward to continued talks in the months and years ahead.
“Pennsylvania is home to a large number of veterans and current military members and we are fortunate to have lawmakers at the federal level who want to work with us to improve the overall health outcomes for these unsung heroes,” concluded Barrar.