(COLORADO SPRINGS) – Veterans in a suicidal crisis are now eligible for free emergency mental health care. Specialists in this area say this policy will save lives.

This federal policy is an addition to the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment Act of 2020 (COMPACT), which now grants veterans in acute suicidal crises free emergency mental health care.

The Veteran’s Administration (VA) covers up to 30 days of inpatient treatment, and 90 days of outpatient treatment, as well as any additional costs of veterans’ use of emergency suicide care, including ambulance bills, any other transportation, and follow-up care.

“It also allows for early interventions… Before, it might have been difficult being able to get into care right away… So, one of the biggest pieces that it’s [the new policy] addressing is just that immediate access to care,” said Amy Moore, Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic Director in Colorado Springs.

Suicide disproportionately impacts veterans. According to the latest data from the VA, 16 veterans lose their lives to suicide each day. The suicide rate is 1.5 times higher than non-veterans.

“Being exposed to war, witnessing trauma, the consideration of moral injury, where they are exposed to things that they may not be exposed to in their day-to-day life here,” Moore said are all reasons why veterans may be so severely impacted.

All veterans are eligible, whether they are enrolled in the VA system or not. This expands access to care for an additional nine million veterans who didn’t have it before.

“The cost piece or the eligibility piece or, you know, not knowing how long it’s going to be before they can have care put in place… It eliminates those barriers to access to care,” said Moore.

If you are a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, the Veteran Crisis Line is available 24/7 with confidential support. To reach responders, dial 988 then Press 1. There is also an online chat feature at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat or text 838255.

According to the VA, eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:

  • Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.