Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

Appointments made to new committee on veterans mental health

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs announced its appointments Tuesday to the newly established Veterans Mental Health Steering Committee, a group that will spearhead the development of a new initiative to improve mental health care for veterans.

The new initiative was launched after the passage of Senate Bill 135, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre. The chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, Jones previously said he wanted to improve access for mental and behavioral health resources for the state’s 400,000 veterans.

Under the bill, the ADVA will collaborate with the Alabama Department of Mental Health – both of which will have representatives serving on the steering committee – to identify gaps in existing mental and behavioral health care resources for veterans, who, along with their immediate family members, make up roughly 26% of the state’s population.

“The Veterans Mental Health Steering Committee provides a unique opportunity in our state and we are thrilled to have these four partners involved and advocating for Alabama’s 400,000 Veterans,” said ADVA Commissioner Kent Davis Tuesday in a statement. 

“We will remain cautiously optimistic as the steering committee develops its comprehensive plan and will continue promoting the Veterans well-being services already doing a great job serving our nation’s heroes.”

The first meeting of the steering committee is expected to be held in mid-August, ADMH Commissioner Kim Boswell, the chair of the committee, previously told Alabama Daily News.

According to the bill, the steering committee is tasked with having completed a review of existing veteran mental and behavioral health care services by Jan. 1, 2025, and a comprehensive plan to address shortages of those services by April 1, 2025.

The steering committee will have until June 30, 2025, to submit to the governor a final comprehensive plan to improve veteran mental and behavioral services. Either state lawmakers, agencies or the governor will then have until Aug. 31 to act on the plan.

The appointments are as follows:

Paulette Risher

A retired major general in the U.S. Army and retired civilian organizational psychologist with the U.S. Air Force, Paulette Risher was appointed to serve as the steering committee’s vice chair.

Rischer has 34 years of active and reserve experience, and currently serves through her practitioner consulting practice Learning for the Journey, and previously served as the CEO of Still Serving Veterans in Huntsville.

John Duffey

A U.S. Army combat veteran, John Duffey is the founder of the Alabama Institute of Behavioral Health, and has spent much of his career as a clinical mental health provider and human behavioral researcher.

Jason Smith

A retired master sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, Jason Smith is a certified peer recovery support specialist, and currently serves as a resilience and risk reduction coordinator with the Alabama National Guard.

Smith has a background in team building, leadership development, program development and technical training according to the ADVA.

Kathleen Saucier

The co-founder of Samson’s Strength Sustainable Veterans Project in Lineville, Kathleen Saucier has more than 15 years of experience advising veterans in trauma recovery, suicide prevention and substance abuse.

In her current role at SSSVP, Saucier provides case management to veterans struggling with homelessness and joblessness. She also has provided telemental health to those with mental or behavioral health needs in three states since 2017.

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia