SHAHEEN, HODES AMENDMENTS INSPIRED BY NH PROGRAMS TO BE ADOPTED NATIONWIDE

Defense Authorization bill includes Shaheen, Hodes amendments to expand Yellow Ribbon

October 08, 2009

(Washington, D.C.)U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congressman Paul Hodes today announced that their suicide prevention and Yellow Ribbon Plus amendments have been included in the final National Defense Authorization Act of 2010. Both amendments, which are based off successful New Hampshire pilot programs, will improve counseling services available to National Guard, Reservists and their families across the country.  The legislation passed the House today and will now go to the Senate for final passage.

"New Hampshire is leading the nation in developing programs to assist our National Guard, Reservists and their families before, during and after deployment," said Shaheen. "This legislation will ensure that all our Guard members and Reservists have access to a comprehensive suicide prevention program, and will help gather information on how we can best serve our citizen-soldiers. Preventing suicides and providing personalized assistance so that men and women in uniform can reenter civilian life is one of the greatest ways that we can honor their sacrifice and dedication to our nation."

"The amendment will help bring a successful New Hampshire program to the nation," said Hodes. "I believe it can be successful in preventing suicides for National Guard members and Reservists across the country. Our guardsmen and woman and reservists deserve all the resources necessary to prevent these tragedies."

The suicide prevention amendment requires that the Department of Defense's (DoD) Office for Reintegration Programs establish a program to provide National Guard members and Reservists, their families, and their communities with training in suicide prevention and counseling in response to suicide.  It also requires the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury to work with State National Guard and Reserve organizations on developing suicide prevention and community response programs.

The Yellow Ribbon Plus amendment seeks to evaluate and improve the nationwide Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program-a support program for National Guardsmen, Reservists and their families.  The amendment also calls on DoD to identify and incorporate lessons learned from programs that have expanded beyond Yellow Ribbon, including a successful New Hampshire pilot program that identified the need for more personalized counseling and support services for National Guard and Reservists and their families.

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program provides important support services to Guard and Reserve members through  informational events and activities throughout the pre-deployment and deployment phases, as well as 30, 60, and 90 days after their return. However, the New Hampshire National Guard found that these programs do not always meet the needs of all service members and their families.

The pilot program developed by the New Hampshire National Guard assigns a "care coordinator" to each Guard member and Reservist, and develops a personalized plan to ensure they are ready for deployment and are able to transition back to civilian life once they return. The program is funded through a unique partnership with the New Hampshire National Guard, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Easter Seals in New Hampshire and 22 other civilian and veteran service organizations.

The passage of these amendments comes as the nation has become increasingly more reliant on National Guard and Reservists to service multiple deployments overseas. This year, more than 1,100 soldiers from the 197th Fires Brigades are expected to deploy to the Middle East. This deployment, the largest in the New Hampshire Guard's history, will mark the second, third or fourth deployment for many soldiers.

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