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Dial 9-8-8 for a Mental Health Crisis; Enforcement Against Violence in the Native American Community; and Enhanced Protections for Veterans and Wildlife

National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 (S 2661) – Introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Oct. 22, 2019, this bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to designate 988 as the universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to provide access to competent, specialized services for high-risk populations such as LGBTQ youth; minorities; and people who live in rural areas. The Act was passed in the Senate in May, the House in September, and was signed into law on Oct. 17.

Savanna’s Act (S 227) – Named in memory of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a young woman brutally murdered in Fargo in 2017. This legislation addresses violence against the most vulnerable members of the Native American community via better response protocols for missing and murdered cases, and improved access to data and reporting statistics on missing and murdered native women. The Act was introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Jan. 25, 2019. The bill passed in the Senate in March, the House in September, and was signed into law by the President on Oct. 10.

Not Invisible Act of 2019 (S 982) – This bill accompanies Savanna’s Act by authorizing coordination of efforts between the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to reduce violent crime on Indian lands and against Indians. Specifically, the bill requires the joint commission to collaborate on prevention efforts, grants and programs related to missing Indians, and the murder and human trafficking of Indians.The bill was introduced by Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) on April 2, 2019. It passed in the Senate in March, the House in September and was signed into law by the President on Oct. 10.

Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 (S 1785) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) on March 13, 2019. It is designed to improve transition assistance, mental health care, care for women veterans and telehealth care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Among other provisions, this legislation requires the VA to submit a plan for mental health care for veterans during the first year after discharge or release from active military, naval or air service. It also mandates that the Department of Defense (DOD) and VA jointly review and report on the records of each former member of the Armed Forces who committed suicide within one year of separation in the prior five years before this bill was passed. The bill passed in the Senate in August, the House in September and was enacted on Oct. 17.

America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (S 3051) – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) on Dec. 12, 2019, this legislation aims to restore wetlands and wildlife populations. Specifically, the bill reauthorizes funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) at $60 million a year until 2025. The NAWCA includes a voluntary matching grant provision that receives a $3 match from program partners, such as Ducks Unlimited, for every dollar spent by the federal government. Since first enacted in 1989, The NAWCA has conserved more than 30 million acres and created an average of 7,500 new jobs a year. This bill has passed in the House and the Senate and is awaiting the President’s signature.


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