Donnelly: ‘Sexton Act is Law’
Indianapolis, Ind. —U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly welcomed his signature legislation, the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014, being signed into law today by President Obama as part of the national defense bill. The Sexton Act requires an annual mental health assessment for all servicemembers.
Donnelly and the Sextons in Indianapolis today
Donnelly said, “Today, we honor the memory of a young man who was taken from us too soon. In remembering Jacob, we seek to prevent another servicemember’s family from experiencing the tragedy of suicide. I have worked alongside Jacob’s parents, Jeff and Barb, for two years now, and their strength continues to inspire my work. Starting next year, every servicemember—Active Duty, Guard, or Reserve—will receive an annual mental health assessment. Also, we will evaluate which prevention or intervention programs are working in hopes of future expansion. I am grateful for the support of many individuals who and organizations that stood with me throughout this effort, but most of all for Jeff and Barb, who continue to share their story to help prevent future tragedies.”
Jeff Sexton said, “The day they passed the bill would have been Jacob’s 27th birthday. And I can’t think of a better birthday present for him or a better Christmas present for all the men and women and their families in the military that suffer every day from PTSD, head injuries, any kind of mental illness. And hopefully this may change the stigma and bring out the help that our men and women need.”
The Sexton Act will:
- Require annual mental health assessments for all servicemembers—Active, Reserve, and Guard. Right now, the best and most consistent screening is happening only for those within the deployment cycle which can leave non-deployed members of the Active, Reserve, and Guard components underserved.
- Maintain strong privacy protections for servicemembers. We must ensure that seeking help remains a sign of strength by protecting the privacy of the servicemember coming forward. The privacy of servicemembers would be ensured by guaranteeing medical privacy protections for these mental health assessments.
- Require a Pentagon report to evaluate existing military mental health practices and provide recommendations for improvement. This report, which is due to Congress within a year of enactment of the bill, would help identify which programs are working and which need to be fixed. A specific focus of the report will be identifying successful peer-to-peer programs that address the need for a more bottom-up approach to identifying warning signs and combatting stigma in each of the Services, with the intention of future expansion.
Specialist Jacob Sexton was a member of the Indiana Nation Guard from Farmland, Indiana. Jacob took his own life at the age of 21 in a Muncie movie theater while home on a 15-day leave from Afghanistan. In early 2013, Jeff Sexton heard Senator Donnelly talk about the need to improve efforts to prevent military suicide during a Senate Armed Services hearing. Jeff emailed the senator’s office about his and his wife Barb’s personal experience with military suicide, losing their son Jacob. Jeff wrote in his email, “I’m willing to help any way I can.” Senator Donnelly called Jeff, and with his and Barb’s blessing, they worked together on legislation named after Jacob that aims to help end the scourge of military suicide.
For more information on the Sexton Act, visit: http://www.donnelly.senate.gov/Jacob-Sexton-Act