House Passes Kennedy/Shea-Porter Amendment to Improve Behavioral Health Care for Servicemembers

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) successfully added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (H.R. 5658). The amendment will make it easier for servicemembers to get mental health treatment within the military health care system.

“This provision will connect our Reservists with the behavioral health care they need and deserve,” said Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. “This new pilot program fulfills a promise we have made to servicemembers and their families. I am proud to stand with Congressman Kennedy in offering this amendment.”

The Kennedy/Shea-Porter amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to create and implement a program to provide a hotline -- open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to help service members locate behavioral health care providers and schedule appointments within the TRICARE Reserve system.

“We need to be doing everything in our power to make it easier for our troops to get the care they need,” said Kennedy. “Our amendment provides an additional tool that will make it easier to find a mental health professional and schedule that first appointment,” said Kennedy.

A recent study from the Rand Corporation reported that reserve members of the Armed Forces are at a higher risk to suffer from depression, post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse problems and other behavioral health issues. The Kennedy/Shea-Porter amendment addresses those concerns.

The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes funding for the Department of Defense. The House of Representatives is likely to pass the bill tonight.