VILLA PARK- Illinois veterans may soon have another outlet for therapy, thanks to Villa Park Democrat, Tom Cullerton.
This is Cullerton's first initiative from the Veterans Suicide Taskforce that signed into law today.
"Our veterans are our community's heroes. Illinois' military members and veterans put their life on the line every day, now is the time for us to take care of them," Cullerton said. "Every life we save is priceless."
Cullerton's Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans is now law.
Under current law, the DVA isn't required to provide information or resources on how a veteran might obtain a service animal.
"The DVA should be a one-stop shop for our veterans," Cullerton said. "There is a stigma within the veterans' community on using traditional treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We haven't been able to explore the effects of using service dogs as alternative treatments since there is a lack of awareness in the veterans' community."
The Illinois Veteran Suicide Task Force was formed by a measure Cullerton led in 2014. As co-chairman Cullerton held six hearings throughout the state to investigate the causes of veteran suicide and released a report to the General Assembly in December of 2016.
The Federal Department of Veterans Affairs and Army state that 10% to 18% of returning veterans are likely to have Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after they return. Some studies suggest that suicide risk is higher among those who experienced trauma due to the symptoms of PTSD.
Cullerton hopes this small step will help make service dogs readily available to veterans to cope with PTSD. Among who have used or are aware of service dogs there is a high demand. However, trained dogs can be difficult to find.
"Using service dogs as treatment for PTSD could be the key component to ending the veteran suicide epidemic," Cullerton said.
Senate Bill 866 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support. This law will go into effect on January 1, 2018.