Senate approves two bills co-sponsored by Queens lawmaker to prevent veteran suicide

State Senator Joseph Addabbo speaks at the wreath-laying ceremony in Forest Hills. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

The state Senate approved two bills, co-sponsored by Queens state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., which aim to raise awareness and prevent veteran suicide.

The first legislation (S.6194B) intends to establish a three-digit (988) suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system, and the second (S.5148) recommends what is called the “Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Flag” as the official state flag for raising awareness of veteran suicide.

“Suicide amongst our veterans remains a legislative priority for me and is a critical issue in New York state,” said New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., a member of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in New York. In 2020, for every 100,000 New Yorkers, more than eight lose their life to suicide. Nationally, roughly 6,000 veterans die each year due to suicide.

Senator Addabbo said the pandemic made the situation worse for many people who felt isolated and overwhelmed. He said the bill related to the 988 hotline will act proactively to provide critical support to people at risk for suicide.

Currently, 911 is the only system used for all emergencies. This new legislation intends to provide a more equitable response to mental health, substance abuse, and suicidal crises with the new 988 hotline and the support of trained counselors from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The first legislation has the mission to raise awareness and break the stigma of suicide. It would establish the Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Flag as the official state flag, and directs the commissioner of general services to establish a protocol for the flying of such flag.

“The Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Flag will raise awareness of veteran suicide while helping us remember and honor those who have served and fallen victim to suicide,” Addabbo said.

According to National Veteran Suicide Prevention’s last report, veterans continue to be at the greatest risk of committing suicide among the U.S. population. In 2018, the suicide rate was 27.5 per 100,000 among veterans compared to 18.2 per 100,000 among non-veteran U.S. adults.

In 2015, Addabbo contributed to the legislation that aims to improve health care and help lower property taxes for veterans of all ages. Now he’s supporting the legislation addressing the mental health and suicide issue among veterans.

“Raising awareness, along with expanding services like the new 988 hotline, will help those in need find critical support before it’s too late,” Addabbo said.

Both bills were approved unanimously by the Senate and are now being considered in the Assembly.

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