By all accounts, right now should be a difficult time to be a Democrat in the Senate. With Republicans controlling the White House and both Houses of Congress, getting legislation signed into law requires a Democrat to have great ideas and a bipartisan mindset, as well as plenty of hard work and patience in reserve. Yet Indiana’s own Democratic Senator, Joe Donnelly, has led two of the 24 bills signed into law this year. It’s the latest example of Senator Donnelly’s effectiveness in his four-plus years as Senator. In fact, more than a dozen legislative initiatives led by Senator Donnelly have become law during his time in the Senate.
If you’re looking for another sign of Senator Donnelly’s effectiveness, simply ask members of the armed forces, or Americans who count a service member as a member of their family. Mental health issues and rising suicide risks among service members and veterans have become one of the most heartbreaking trends in recent memory.
In response, Senator Donnelly introduced and got signed into law through the national defense bill the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act. Named for a Hoosier and National Guardsman who took his own life in 2009, the bill mandates mental health assessments for the members of our military. Starting this September, every single service member—whether active duty, reserve, or guard—will receive annual assessments to recognize those facing mental health challenges and ensure they get the care they need. It will make a real difference in the lives of the men and women in our nation’s armed services.
He’s also put his energy into addressing the crisis affecting Hoosiers in every corner of the state: the opioid epidemic. And last year’s major opioids law contained multiple provisions from Senator Donnelly, updating best prescribing practices and helping first responders who use diverse treatment options.
Senator Donnelly’s work to address opioids and drugs trafficking is also an area where he’s been extraordinarily effective outside of the legislative process. In the current gridlocked Senate, writing bills is just one tool of many that Senators use to deliver results for their constituents. They can often deliver a big local impact by helping individuals and communities directly. For instance, Senator Donnelly played a crucial role helping Marion and LaPorte Counties secure special designations from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which bring with them federal resources for drug enforcement and prevention. He also secured a Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program grant for Indianapolis to help reduce and prevent crime. In Senator Donnelly’s home county of St. Joseph — where he still lives — he’s been the driving force behind a new VA health center that is set to open later this year and will severely reduce the burden on veterans in North Central Indiana in need of care. These are just a few of the instances where Senator Donnelly has gone to bat for Hoosiers.
Senator Donnelly is a workhorse. Back home, he’s visited every single one of Indiana’s 92 counties each of the past three years. And in Washington, he’s achieved victories for Hoosiers across the board. We should be proud to have such an effective Senator in Joe Donnelly, and we should be lucky enough to have him long into the future.
President – IU College Democrats