Announced by the president at Fort Bliss in Texas, where he was commemorating the two-year anniversary of the end of combat in Iraq, the primary purpose of the order is to reduce the unacceptably high suicide rate among veterans and active duty personnel. According to ABC news, there have been at least 116 Army suicides in 2012.
“We may be turning a page on a decade of war, but America’s responsibilities to you have only just begun,” the Washington Post quotes President Obama telling the crowd at Fort Bliss.
To help meet those responsibilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs in partnership with other key agencies has been charged with hiring more mental health professionals and peer counselors, and entering into pilot projects with community based organizations – including substance abuse treatment providers. The goal is to expand services and reduce wait times, particularly for those in crisis.
The executive order also establishes the Military and Veterans Mental Health Interagency Task Force; members include the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. One of the group’s roles will be to offer guidance on how to improve substance abuse treatment services.