The Hannon Act and the Push For Precision Mental Health

Matt Kuntz
2 min readFeb 11, 2021
US Capitol

One of NAMI Montana’s largest multi-year efforts was our work on the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. This bipartisan effort to better serve America’s veterans was led by Senators John Tester and Jerry Moran.

The section that we spent the most time on was Section 305. The “Precision Medicine for Veterans Initiative” to “identify and validate brain and mental health biomarkers among veterans, with specific consideration for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, traumatic brain injury, and such other mental health conditions as the Secretary considers appropriate.”

The Hannon Act was signed in October, so the VA is still in the earliest stages of planning this Initiative.

But, the research continues to roll in that illustrates why we believe that this effort will play an essential part in future efforts to help America’s veterans get the right care at the right time through advanced diagnostics and care.

From Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

February 11, 2021

What impact does severe trauma have upon health? The answer, in part, has to do with the individual, research has shown. For biological and genetic reasons some people are more resilient than others to the stresses that trauma places upon the human system, affecting both brain and body.

A team of researchers led by Alicia K. Smith, Ph.D., and Kerry Ressler, M.D., Ph.D., set out to evaluate how trauma and PTSD affect the brain and the expected lifespan of sufferers, using brain scanning technology and a new assessment tool called GrimAge. Publishing their results in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, their findings were consistent with prior research indicating that trauma and PTSD appears to significantly accelerate cellular aging. And they generated direct evidence that PTSD in some people is likely to shorten expected lifespan as well as increase the risk of neurodegeneration by thinning portions of the brain’s cortex.

A total of 854 people who are among those registered in the Grady Trauma Project based in Atlanta, Georgia, were selected for inclusion in the study by Drs. Smith, Ressler and colleagues. The Grady project, the authors note, seeks to gauge the influence of genetic and environmental factors on responses to stressful life events in a predominantly low-income, urban African-American population. Over 90% of participants in the PTSD study were African-American and 70% were female. The average age was about 43.

Read the full article at this link.



Matt Kuntz

A weird mix of mental health, policy, tech, writing, and Montana. Views are my own, not of any organization I’m involved with.