(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today announced that her suicide prevention and Yellow Ribbon Plus amendments included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 have passed the Senate and will go to the President to be signed into law. Both amendments, which are based on successful New Hampshire pilot programs, will improve counseling and support services available to National Guard, Reservists and their families across the country.
"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 help 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 suicide prevention amendment, which Congressman Paul Hodes sponsored in the House, 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 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.
Shaheen also cosponsored amendments that were included in the Defense Authorization Act, including the Gregg-Shaheen amendment to construct a previously authorized Armed Forces Reserve Center near Pease Air National Guard Base, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act that helps members of the military stationed overseas register and vote, and the Voinovich-Shaheen National Guard amendment that encourages military exchanges between states and foreign countries. Shaheen also cosponsored the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Act, which expands the definition of a hate crime to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.