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New policy is making mental health care more accessible for military veterans

Starting next Tuesday, veterans in suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility at no cost.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Navy veteran John Tappen was in the military from 2006 to 2011 and he suffers from what he calls ‘invisible wounds'.

“It’s a little difficult for us who don’t visually look like we are suffering to say that we are, and I definitely held that stigma. I think I suffered in silence for a long time and when I did reach out, I was told it was a four-month wait because I was trying to use the VA care system,” said Tappen. 

Starting Jan. 17 there’s a chance for veterans to get help for free at any VA or non-VA health care facility.

 Veterans will not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.

This policy will help prevent veteran suicide and will also increase access to suicide care for up to 9 million veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA.

“It’s incredibly helpful because right now a lot of these vets will go to the VA for help and they’ll have to wait longer than they should when they need help at that moment," said Carl Cricco, CEO for K9s for Warriors. 

The VA reported that in 2020 there were more than 6,000 veteran suicide deaths.

This new policy will also include inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days.

Cricco says roughly 20 veteran commit suicide every day and he describes it as a crisis, and says he is hopeful that this will impact the overall suicide numbers in veterans.

The suicide prevention and crisis lifeline number is 988. You can call or text this number. 

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