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New Legislation to Provide Emergency Mental Health Care for Veterans

(Camden, NJ) Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ-01) today announced urgent new legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that will provide emergency mental health care for veterans seeking assistance.

“So many of our veterans suffer in silence. Tragically, some see no way out other than to take their own lives. In fact, 22 U.S. military veterans commit suicide every single day. We have a duty to ensure our American heroes have top notch, immediate care when they experience a mental health emergency. This is a life and death matter and their care cannot wait,” said Rep. Donald Norcross.

Norcross announced his sponsorship of the Never Again Act, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide in-patient psychiatric care to veterans in need of immediate assistance. Under the legislation, if the VA is unable to accommodate a veteran at its own facilities, the VA would be obligated to identify urgent mental health care treatment for veterans at a non-VA facility.

“We have a responsibility to our veterans. They bravely and selflessly served our country.  Some bear the so-called invisible wounds of service. Now, if they need help, a guaranteed lifeline should be there for them. And it should be just a phone call away. This is a priority,” said Rep. Norcross.

Never Again Act builds off the concept of HR 3980- The Veterans Freedom of Healthcare Act, which Rep. Norcross authored and introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last November. That legislation would give veterans the option of choosing a health care provider outside of the VA system in addition to receiving treatment at VA facilities.

“Today, I hosted a round table discussion with South Jersey veterans. We had an open dialogue about veterans suffering from mental illness. We need to have these frank conversations. Our veterans need to know there’s no shame in recognizing they may have a problem and need help. We need to work together to remove the stigma of mental illness among our veteran community,” added Rep. Norcross.

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Rep. Donald Norcross discusses his sponsorship of the Never Again Act in Congress during a round table discussion with South Jersey veterans at Rutgers University-Camden. (Photo Provided)

“These are real issues and things need to change. Things just aren’t happening the way they should be. I wholeheartedly support this legislation,” said 27-year-old Josh Junk of Gloucester County, who served in the U.S. Army for three-and-a-half years, including a year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan. Junk is also the son of a Vietnam War veteran.

Today’s round table discussion with veterans and news conference was held at Rutgers University-Camden, recently recognized as a Purple Heart University.

“Our military veterans deserve access to nothing less than a robust array of services that help them achieve success in civilian life.  Congressman Norcross is shining a spotlight on the critical need for mental health programs that serve our veterans. This is crucial to helping our veterans transition from military life.  As New Jersey’s only Purple Heart University, Rutgers University-Camden has a well-respected commitment to welcoming student-veterans with the support that they need to order to achieve their Rutgers degrees and, by extension, their career and life goals.  Through our Office for Veterans Services, Rutgers-Camden constantly adapts to meet the individual needs of each student-veteran.  It is our commitment to serve all of our students, and our further honor to do so for those who serve our nation,” said Phoebe A. Haddon, Chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden.

Just last week, Rep. Norcross voted for H.R. 5392–No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, which would require the VA to develop a toll-free Veterans Crisis Line (VCL), including backup call centers, and develop a plan to ensure that each telephone call, text message, and other communications received by the VCL, including at backup call centers, is answered in a timely manner by a person, consistent with the guidance established by the American Association of Suicidology.

(Source: Press Release October 3, 2016)