PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation enhancing efforts to prevent veteran suicide and ensure Arizona’s heroes have the support and resources they need.
House Bill (HB) 2542 allows the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services (ADVS) to submit data from the Be Connected program for inclusion in an annual report by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) that details information on veteran suicides in Arizona, and works to prevent suicide deaths by Arizona service members.
“The challenges that our nation’s heroes face while they serve don’t disappear when they return,” said Governor Ducey. “It’s important that our veterans, service members and their families receive the resources and support they need, especially when they are experiencing mental or emotional hardships. I am proud to sign this legislation, and I’m grateful to Representative Wilmeth and the Department of Veterans’ Services for their work to protect those who have done so much to protect us.”
HB 2542 expands on HB 2488, an existing initiative signed in 2019 that requires ADHS to annually compile a report on veteran suicides in Arizona. The report seeks to decrease the number of veteran suicides by tracking data, understanding historic trends in veteran suicide, and analyzing potential risk factors and patterns that may lead to suicide among service members.
Representative Justin Wilmeth sponsored the bill, which received unanimous support from the legislature.
“Our veterans and service members have made countless sacrifices for this country,” said Representative Wilmeth. “The least we can do is provide much-needed support for them and their loved ones. I’m proud to work on this bill and create more options for veterans struggling with mental health issues.”
Established in 2017, Be Connected is a statewide program focused on reducing deaths by suicide in Arizona’s military and veteran population. The program connects Arizona’s more than 500,000 service members, veterans and their families with support and resources, including peer support and behavioral health services, which aims to reduce deaths by suicide of Arizona’s service members.
In April 2019, Governor Ducey signed HB 2488 directing ADHS to submit an annual report improving the tracking of veteran suicides in Arizona.
Additionally, the Governor on September 8, 2020 issued a proclamation recognizing Suicide Prevention Awareness Week in Arizona to raise awareness of the issue of suicide and highlight services available for those in need.