Lt. Gov. Brown Announces Agreement to Help Returning Veterans

State to provide behavioral health services until federal benefits are available


ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 12, 2009) – The Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board held its second meeting today at Anne Arundel Community College. During the meeting, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown noted the October signing of Memorandum of Understanding between the state and the federal government that will ensure behavioral health services are available to Maryland veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan need our support and care when they return home and readjust to civilian life,” Lt. Governor Brown said. “Maryland is committed to serving all of our veterans and this agreement enhances our partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs so that we can ensure that our warfighters will receive the care and attention they deserve when they come home.”

The agreement is a Memorandum of Understanding between the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that will enable the DHMH to provide behavioral health services until the returning veterans can be linked to services within the Veterans Affairs or through a military benefits package.

“This is an exciting partnership that will continue to enhance our noble mission,” said Sanford M. Garfunkel, Director, VA Capitol Health Care Network, VISN 5. “We look forward to working together to serve the needs of Maryland’s veterans. This agreement is especially important for those residing in rural areas of the state where it is even more difficult for them to get the help they need.”

The Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board is meeting around the state to hear about the problems veterans and their families face in accessing mental health and substance abuse services. The first meeting was held in September at Charlotte Hall in St. Mary’s County. (A second meeting was scheduled to take place in December in Frostburg, but was postponed due to inclement weather.)

At today’s meeting, State Senator Douglas J.J. Peters provided an update on the 2008 Interim Report Task Force to Study State Assistance to Veterans that was issued in December.

The Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board was created during the 2008 Legislation Session when the O’Malley/Brown administration introduced a comprehensive legislative package for veterans.  It is designed to improve coordination of services between DHMH, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, the Maryland National Guard and the Maryland Defense Force.

The 12-member Advisory Board – through continuous input and analysis from Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans project leadership and staff, and from families and veterans from across the state – will develop realistic recommendations aimed at the long term improvement of services and supports for our nation’s veterans.

The cornerstone of the package was the Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative that set aside $2.3 million for veterans behavioral health services. The initiative provides funding for four regional resource coordinators who help direct behavioral health services to veterans in need.

Studies show that as many as one out of three veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffers from mental health problems, including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Of those veterans, more than two out of three do not receive the proper medical attention that is necessary. Other studies have found that today’s returning veterans have a significantly higher rate of suicide than veterans from previous conflicts.

Other components of the administration’s veterans initiatives include an investment of $800,000 for reintegration services to help veterans transition from combat back to the community; an additional $150,000 for veterans scholarships; $320,000 to open two new veterans service centers in Hagerstown and Charlotte Hall and to convert a part-time office in Bel Air to a full-time service center; $1 million for the Disabled Veteran Business Loan program; and unemployment insurance for the spouses of military personnel. The package serves as a national example of what states can do for veterans to fill the gaps left by the federal government.

More information on Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans is available toll free at 1-877-770-4801.

Lt. Gov. Brown, a 24-year member of the military and Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, is the country's highest-elected official to have served a tour of duty during the current Iraq war.



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