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Tillis Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Rate of Suicide Among National Guard and Reserve Component

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to combat the high rate of suicide among members of the National Guard and Reserve.

Currently, members of the National Guard and Reserves undergo annual health assessments to identify medical issues that could impact their ability to deploy, but any follow-up care must almost always be pursued at their own expense. The bipartisan Care and Readiness Enhancement (CARE) for Reservists Act introduced by Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) would improve Guardsmen and Reservists’ access to consistent mental health care, regardless of their deployment status.

“The rate of suicide among our service members is unacceptable and it is vital that Congress continues to take steps to combat this epidemic,” said Senator Tillis. “We need to ensure that members of the Armed Services, including the National Guard and Reserve, have access to the mental health care services they need. This bipartisan legislation will expand access to our service member and ensure they have the treatment regardless of deployment status.”

The CARE for Reservists Act allows the Defense Department to fund needed behavioral or mental health care, regardless of whether that reservist is within his or her pre-deployment window or has never deployed at all. Their bill also allows members of the Guard and Reserve to access Vet Centers for mental health screening and counseling, employment assessments, education training, and other services to help them return to civilian life.

The bipartisan bill received strong support from the National Guard and Reserve community.

“Suicides in the National Guard and Reserve continue to be a major concern,” said Roy Robinson, Brigadier General US Army (Ret.), President of the National Guard Association of the United States. “Senator Tester’s bill would utilize these critical Vet Centers in helping our members and their families in need of confidential counseling services at over 300 community based locations nationwide. The bill would also authorize the Defense Department to address the mental health and behavioral conditions of the National Guard and Reserve to ensure we are not neglecting the medical readiness and force protection needs of this vital part of the total force.”

“The Citizen Soldiers of the National Guard are willing to sacrifice everything for their country but when they return from serving either domestically or abroad they are not given the same support that we offer other members of the armed forces,” said Enlisted Association of the National Guard of United States Executive Director Frank Yoakum. “The CARE for Reservists Act of 2019 is vital in assuring that the men and women of the National Guard have all the support and care that they have earned.”

The CARE For Reservists Act is also cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WS), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Text of the CARE For Reservists Act can be found online HERE.

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