Lethal Means Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2020

MEDIA CONTACT
Andrew Patrick, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
apatrick@csgv.org; cell: 828-712-7603

Lethal Means Safety Training Act Would Improve Health Services for Veterans

CSGV endorses H.R. 8084, for which it provided expert guidance

WASHINGTON — The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) and its affiliate the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (Ed Fund) applauded the introduction of the Lethal Means Safety Training Act (H.R. 8084) this week by Rep. Lauren Underwood.

The Lethal Means Safety Training Act would not only improve the suicide prevention training that health care providers within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently receive, but also require that all department staff who come into contact with veterans receive such training. The bill seeks to protect the lives of America’s veterans by equipping VA staff with the right tools to identify those at increased risk of suicide and intervene appropriately.

According to “Prevent Firearm Suicide: Service Members and Veterans,” a 2019 report published by the Ed Fund, in 2017 (year for which latest data is available) alone:
1. Veterans had a suicide rate 1.5 times higher than non-veteran adults.
2. 6,139 veterans died by suicide – an average of 16.8 every day – and of those, 69.4% died by firearm injury.
3. Veterans made up 7.9% of the U.S. adult population, but comprised 13.5% of all suicide deaths among U.S. adults.

“Veteran suicide is a public health crisis,” said Dakota Jablon, CSGV’s director of federal affairs, and suicide prevention specialist at the Ed Fund. “Veterans are at far greater risk than other adults, and of those who die by suicide, almost 7 out of 10 use a firearm. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We know that anything that delays the time between suicidal thoughts and action – such as reducing access to firearms – can save lives, by allowing more opportunity for intervention. Lethal means safety counseling creates these opportunities, by working with veterans to limit their access to firearms during times of increased risk.”

The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, a group organized and staffed by the Ed Fund, was instrumental in bringing attention to lethal means safety counseling as an area for policy development. The Consortium includes many of the nation’s leading experts in gun violence prevention, law, public and behavioral health. In a 2017 comprehensive report on the role of health care provider training programs, “Breaking Through Barriers: The Emerging Role of Healthcare Provider Training Programs in Firearm Suicide Prevention,” the Consortium made recommendations that if implemented, would “equip healthcare providers to deal tactfully, respectfully, and directly with the issue of firearms and suicide.”

“We know that lethal means safety counseling works, and we’re pleased to see that H.R. 8084 — which could be life-saving legislation — follows Consortium’s recommendations,” said Vicka Chaplin, director of research translation at CSGV and the Ed Fund, and managing director of the Consortium. “This bill would go a long way toward making such counseling more effective, by updating the training that health care providers at the VA receive, and expanding it to include far more staff. Military veterans stepped up to protect our lives. With this bill, Rep. Underwood is stepping up to protect theirs.”

Rep. Underwood shared in a press release, “Veterans have sacrificed so much for us, so it’s essential that when they return home, they receive the best possible health care. That includes equipping VA employees and community partners with the resources and training they need to address the unique challenges veterans face with mental health and to help prevent death by suicide. The Lethal Means Safety Act is an evidence-based approach that creates valuable time and space between a veteran at risk and a potentially lethal means.”

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About the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Founded in 1974, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention organization. We believe gun violence should be rare and abnormal. CSGV develops and advocates for evidence-based solutions to reduce gun injury and death in all its forms.

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