Veterans gathered to support bill that will track veteran suicide in California

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The bill will require the State Department of Public Health to collect data on veteran suicides and report it to the legislature and the Department of Veteran Affairs each year. (KFSN)

Military Police Veteran Norbie Lara knows the danger that comes with protecting our country and serving overseas. In 2004, while in Iraq, he was injured when the vehicle he was in was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.

"Which took my arm, my lieutenant's left arm-- she was sitting right behind me."

But Lara says the risk of returning home is often just as bad as being out on the battlefield, because for some it is a homecoming that ends in suicide.

"I lost a buddy, Tim, to suicide and I attempted to take my life a couple times."

Because of that, Lara is a supporter of this new bill-- AB 242. The bill will require the State Department of Public Health to collect data on veteran suicides and report it to the legislature and the Department of Veteran Affairs each year.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson and Dr. Joaquin Arambula proposed it together.

"Getting ahead of the suicide, getting help when it's needed, not after it's too late, and I think this is a good first step," said Patterson.

And Arambula, an emergency room doctor, believes help starts with having adequate data to provide support.

"I believe we're able to start dealing with the mental health and substance abuse that comes from the trauma people are exposed to when they are at war."

It is a bipartisan effort that Lara says is life-saving, because he feels the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day is one too many.

"I feel like if I had the support system in place then I would have never attempted that and by the grace of God I'm still here."

Currently data on veteran suicide is collected by county coroners, but that information is not being used by the state to help come up with ways to improve suicide prevention outreach and other programs.

Related Topics:
politicsveteranscaliforniasuicide
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