Lupardo Bill to Help Address Veterans’ Mental Health Issues Signed Into Law by Governor Paterson

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) announced today that Governor David Paterson signed into law legislation (A.9685-A) that she authored in response to the increasing mental health concerns of veterans and troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The new law will add two new members to the Mental Health Services Council (MHSC) in order to better address the needs and concerns of veterans and military personnel.

“With so many troops returning from multiple tours with various mental health issues, it is critical that our state’s mental health services address their needs,” said Assemblywoman Lupardo. “These additional two members to the Council will help provide key input.”

The two new members, appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Director of the Division of Veterans' Affairs and the Adjutant General of the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, will help assess and deal with the mental health needs of veterans, including those returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MHSC, created in 1982, establishes statewide goals and objectives for services to persons with mental illness and reviews mental health services programs prepared by the Office of Mental Health (OMH).

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created an immediate need to address the mental health concerns of our current and future veterans. According to a recent study released by the RAND Corporation in April 2007, about 300,000 of the 1.6 million US troops – approximately one out of five – who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, but only around half have sought medical care.

In its first year, more than 22,000 veterans contacted a special suicide hotline seeking help. The United State Veterans Affairs Department (VA) estimates that every year 6,500 veterans take their own lives.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day by calling 800-273-TALK (8255). Veterans should press “1” after being connected.

Assemblywoman Lupardo is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Women Veterans. She is also a member of the Mental Health and Veterans Affairs committees in the Assembly.