A panel in the Florida House advanced bipartisan legislation Monday that could address the ongoing problem of veteran suicide, which took the lives of 553 Florida men and women in 2019.
CS/HB 1315 cleared the House State Affairs Committee Monday, putting it in posture for consideration by the full House.
Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg and Rep. David Smith, a Republican from Seminole County, teamed up on the bill, which sailed through the committee without opposition.
Smith said this “train the trainer” bill will allow people to say “we are taking action to save veterans’ lives.”
The proposal would allocate half a million dollars for a Veteran Suicide Prevention Training Pilot Program. The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) would set up the program, which would provide each FDVA claims examiner and each county and city veteran service officer with specialized training and certification in the prevention of veteran suicide.
Florida currently is home to 1.5 million veterans, and after decades of foreign conflicts, those returning fighters are plagued by a host of issues.
Among them: PTSD, which affects up to one in five combatants in the war on terror and has affected up to 30% of those who fought in the long-running Vietnam War.
With the high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder and related issues, including substance abuse and suicidal ideation, this legislation would train each FDVA claims examiner and county and city veteran service officer “to identify indicators of elevated suicide risk and provide emergency crisis referral for veterans expressing or exhibiting symptoms of emotional or psychological distress.”
Diamond noted the additional training would help those working with veterans on a daily basis to recognize the signs of potential suicides.
The bill is supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, among others. Diamond acknowledged this support in his close.
The legislation is moving through Senate committees also.
SB 1712, sponsored by Republican Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills, will be heard Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee. That hearing will be its final stop before the floor.