SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s a historic move that will provide expanded mental healthcare access to veterans and their families. Last week Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed several bills into law aimed at preventing suicide among military service men and women.

Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones visited the Hinesville clinic that helped spearhead it all – the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, as they commemorated the passage of HB 414… SB 21 and HB 175.

The move will help to open up grant funding to other organizations like the clinic, including the local non-profit, Fight the War Within Foundation.

“For our hero, it took 42 days from the day he asked his provider, his primary care, to get into mental health for the first time, 42 days and it was just 42 days too long,” says Miranda Briggs, the founder of Fight the War Within.

She started the foundation in honor of her late husband Garrett – a veteran and loving father who served in the military for five years, many of those in Savannah. But, shortly after the birth of their daughter, he lost his life to suicide.

“After he passed, I ordered all his military and his medical records to try to get a better understanding and what I learned from his medical records illuminated everything to me, it opened up my eyes to a world I didn’t know and a lot of problems I didn’t know were issues, but he ultimately wasn’t getting the help he needed, and to him he didn’t know that there were resources out there that could have been connecting,” says Briggs.

She says this legislation could help fill the gap in care that’s available to our military communities and their loved ones.

“There’s a shortage of mental healthcare workers, so a lot of people are falling in between the gaps of needing care, being put on a waitlist,” Briggs said.

Now, Briggs believes these additional funds will help save lives, by breaking down barriers to seeking support for others like her husband.

“In 2020 when we started out non-profit, I felt like I was having conversations with him from beyond, I felt like I was meeting other services members in similar situations to him and with partnering with Islands Counseling, it’s such a blessing to be able to tell people what I wish I could have told him, you know there is help out there,” says Briggs.

Applications for grant funds will soon be available and behavioral healthcare providers that treat military service members and veterans are encouraged to apply.