C 6bToPW0AA 0VCSPRINGFIELD- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is working to combat alarming veterans suicide statistics in the nation.

According to a recent study by the U.S.  Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the U.S.

This week, Cullerton advanced House Bill 2647 with bipartisan support out of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee.

“One veteran that is lost to suicide is one too many,” Cullerton said. “The proposals outlined in this legislation are common-sense solutions to help Illinois remove barriers between veterans and the resources they qualify for. This initiative wasn’t compiled in haste but over hours and weeks of testimony, input and concerns raised by veterans, their loved ones and veterans organizations throughout the state. This is a true testament to their hard work and dedication to our nation’s heroes. I’m proud to advance this measure and be part of this monumental effort.”

House Bill 2647 is a collection of comprehensive recommendations that work to ensure veterans have better access to services, treatment for mental trauma and depression as well as better access to employment opportunities.

State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park), a former U.S. Army captain, is proud to be part of this vital initiative. Hastings served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is in constant contact with many men and women from his unit.

As he meets with veterans in his community there is a common theme, disconnect between state and federal veterans benefits.

“Our nation’s heroes shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to receive benefits they qualify for,” Hastings said. “The state and federal government is trying their best to make sure veterans have the necessary resources to transition back to civilian life. However, the hurdles, redundancies and extra paperwork they have to go through to actually receive the benefits don’t make sense.  Our goal is to streamline the process to ease the burden on our returning veterans.”

A common theme throughout the process is finding ways to access veterans resources promised to the state as well as disconnect between federal and state resources. House Bill 2647 creates a connection between the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense to help streamline and remove redundancies when returning veterans redeem benefits.

Some of the provisions in House Bill 2647 include:

The DVA will be required to reach out to the U.S. DoD to identify veterans returning from units that have experienced heavy casualties, served in high-conflict areas or have at least one member who possibly committed suicide following their service. After identifying veterans DVA will create a proactive line of communication.

DVA will also work with higher education facilities to address issues that may negatively affect a veteran’s ability to learn in a traditional classroom environment such as exploring the expansion of online classes, moving desks away from windows and crowded halls and providing veterans’ only instructional hours.

DVA will be required to proactively reach out to the U.S. DoD to develop a system to allow veterans to file DD Form 214 (discharge papers immediately upon discharge). This is the required form for veterans to receive benefits.

Lastly, creating collaboration between local chambers of commerce and DVA to create an employer training program to focus on the needs of veteran employees and identifying veteran friendly businesses.

Cullerton, chairman of the Task force on Veterans Suicide and a veteran himself, hosted multiple hearings throughout the state to hear from veterans, veteran spouses and community organizations to hear about their concerns and recommendations to ease some of the struggles returning veterans experience.

Cullerton will work to advance this measure through the Senate by May 31.

Category: Press Releases

112014 js 0553SPRINGFIELD- To help alleviate the shortage of service dogs for veterans, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) advanced House Bill 2897.

Cullerton has been working to make service dogs more readily available to veterans to help combat symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“There is a stigma within the veterans’ community on using traditional treatments for PTSD,” Cullerton said. “Service dogs provide our returning veterans a means to combat stress and symptoms of PTSD that can potentially save lives and help ease the transition to civilian life.”

Cullerton, a former infantryman in the U.S. Army, served as a chairman on the Veterans Suicide Task Force last year. The report he released found the use of service dogs could have a real impact on lowering the number of veteran suicides in Illinois.

“Service dogs could the part of a comprehensive solution to end the veterans suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said.

House Bill 2897 will allow Helping Paws Service Dog Program to include training service dogs for veterans with PTSD or depression. Previously, the program had only allowed the Department of Corrections to establish a dog training program to train committed persons to be service dog trainers and animal care professionals.

Cullerton hopes through expanding the program Illinois will be better equipped to address the need for service dogs for Illinois’ veterans.

House Bill 2897 passed the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs with bipartisan support and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Category: Press Releases

052114 js 0303csVILLA PARK- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is excited to announce Illinois was recently awarded a federal grant for over $16 million to fight Illinois’ opioid crisis.

This grant comes in light of recent news that heroin and opioid abuse now kills more Americans annually than gun homicides or traffic accidents according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We can’t rest until the opioid crisis is eliminated from our communities,” Cullerton said. “Every dollar we receive will help our community providers and organizations give people an opportunity to seek treatment and turn their lives around.”

The federal grant supports new treatment and recovery services, including the establishment of an Opioid Crisis Line and expanded medication-assisted treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder. The funding will also support opioid-related enhancements to the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), the launch of a statewide opiate awareness campaign, new pilot programs to provide medications to treat opioid use disorder, and pre-release and post-release services for individuals who are incarcerated in county jails.

In addition, the funding will support a widespread expansion of the training of first responders to an opioid overdose and the availability of the overdose reversal medication Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan.

In 2016, Cullerton worked to addresses the heroin and opioid abuse and addiction through House Bill 1. The legislation combated to problem in a variety of different ways, by training public safety entities in administering Narcan, requiring state agencies to develop a three-year heroin and opioid drug prevention program and expanding state-funded treatment to include addiction treatment and prescription costs.

“We need to find a comprehensive solution to protect our young people from making fatal decisions,” said Cullerton. “Our priority is to put protections in place to save lives.”

Despite innovative methods to combat the opioid overdose crisis in DuPage, Illinois continues to experience a notable increase in drug overdose deaths. Cullerton continues to work with DuPage County on finding ways to combat this epidemic.

“Drug overdoses can happen to people regardless of their age, socioeconomic background or ethnicity,” Cullerton said. “There is help out there. We need to make sure those suffering from opioid addiction know where to find it.”

Through the Illinois Opioid Crisis Response Advisory Council, The Illinois Department of Human Services and many other state agencies are coordinating the state’s efforts to develop a statewide opioid epidemic preparedness and prevention strategy.

Cullerton is urging DuPage County residents to give his Villa Park Office a call at (630) 903-6662 with any question regarding where to receive help fighting opioid addiction.

Category: Press Releases

040314 js 0127SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has advanced plans to tackle issues found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.

Cullerton passed Senate Bill 1693 to allow deceased veterans with military service to include their veteran status, branch of military and the period of time served in the military on their death certificate.

“We need to get to the root of veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said. “We can only tackle this problem after we have a complete picture of cause of this problem. This is a simple way to collect statistics and honor Illinois’ veterans.”

The idea was suggested by DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgenson, who indicated that veteran suicide was under reported since Illinois death certificates do not include information on the history of U.S. military service.

“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 also passed Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans.

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.”

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 to ending the veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said.

Senate Bill 866 and Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now move to the House for consideration.

Category: Press Releases

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CONTACT SENATOR CULLERTON

Welcome to the official website of Senator Tom Cullerton. Please fill out our contact form to contact Senator Cullerton directly or you may call either of our offices. We look forward to hearing from you.

District Office
338 S. Ardmore Ave.
Villa Park, IL 60181
P: (630) 903-6662
F: (630) 903-6643

Springfield Office
122 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
P: (217) 782-9463