war_is_trauma_150x120.jpeg
Image by Shaun Slifer/Justseeds
Earlier this week Sen. Patty Murray proposed legislation that would force the Department of Defense to revamp its behavioral health and

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Patty Murray Proposes Military Mental Health Overhaul; Veterans Rally in Westlake

war_is_trauma_150x120.jpeg
Image by Shaun Slifer/Justseeds
Earlier this week Sen. Patty Murray proposed legislation that would force the Department of Defense to revamp its behavioral health and suicide-prevention programs. Today the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a scathing report about the state of mental health treatment in the military and organized a demonstration in Westlake Park.

Ever since the controversy erupted last year over hundreds of questionable PTSD diagnosis reversals at Murray Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Murray has been leading the charge trying to compel the military brass to address the issue. On Monday, Murray, the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced a bill that would dramatically alter the way the military treats soldiers with PTSD.

Murray has repeatedly voiced concerns about lengthy wait times for soldiers seeking mental health counseling, and for good reason. A recent study by the Veterans Affairs Inspector General found that more than half of veterans seeking mental health care waited more than 50 days for their first assessment. Perhaps not coincidentally, 154 service members took their own lives in the first 155 days of 2012.

According to Murray's office, her proposal -- the Mental Health ACCESS Act of 2012 -- would:

require the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program; expand eligibility for a variety of Department of Veterans Affairs mental health services to family members; strengthen oversight of DoD Mental Health Care and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System; improve training and education for our health care providers; create more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities; and require VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.

Meanwhile, this morning NAMI released a report entitled "Parity for Patriots," which slammed the Pentagon and VA's approach to mental health care. Full of facepalm-inducing statistics (for instance: "One active duty soldier takes his or her own life every 36 hours, and one veteran every 80 minutes."), the report recommends that military leaders must be held accountable for stigma and suicide, and suggests that soldiers be awarded purple hearts for "psychological wounds."

The report concludes by calling on the Department of Defense, VA, and Department of Health and Human Services to, "eradicate barriers to metnal health care and increase service capacity through use of technology and local care."

In conjunction with the report, NAMI helped organize a rally this afternoon in Westlake Park for "individuals and families affected by mental illness from both the Seattle area and cities and states nationwide, including veterans."

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