Veterans Network of Care Launch
March 31, 2009
Good afternoon and thank you everyone for being here today. Let me start by thanking Sec. Colmers and Sec. Forbes for helping to put this launch together. And Bruce Bronzan and Christopher Raschke from Trilogy for making the trip from the west coast…
Also, I’d like to acknowledge Frank Sullivan from the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency, Renata Henry and Brian Hepburn from the Mental Hygiene Administration
and Daryl Plevy from the Maryland Transformation Project.
Thank you for your service to Maryland and for making this announcement possible.
In my role as a public official, I make decisions and give Governor O’Malley advice based on statistics and evidence and public opinion and a host of additional empirical media. But, even in a StateStat age, I am guided on a daily basis by a lifetime of personal experience. And, for me, my 25 years of military service – including a tour of duty in Iraq in 2005 – has made me more aware of the debt we as a people owe to our veterans.
And it’s an awareness and an understanding that I share with Governor O’Malley and one that I firmly believe has helped strengthen our partnership.
Last year, Governor O’Malley and I introduced what I believe is the most comprehensive veterans agenda this state’s ever seen. Working with the General Assembly, we passed the Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative which set aside $2.3 million to fill the gaps for behavioral health services for our state’s veterans. We created the Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board to identify gaps and better connect community health providers with veterans in need of help. We protected veteran business loans and successfully fought to extend unemployment benefits to the spouses of military personnel.And this year, we’re working with the General Assembly to expand the Behavioral Health Initiative to cover all veterans, not just those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are some, though, who are advocating that we roll back funding for this program to help us through these difficult times. These are difficult times, but tough times are not the right times to scale back support for our veterans. We ask too much of them to give them anything but our full commitment – especially as these economic times weigh just as heavily on their families as they do on ours.
We need to do more. We need to better educate veterans and their families about the services available to them. We need to better connect veterans in rural areas with resources and treatment to readjust to civilian life.We need to do our part to lower risk of suicides among our veterans.
So, today, we’re launching a new program to connect vets with the services they need.
The Maryland Veterans Network of Care is an online resource that provides Maryland’s vets with a virtual One Stop Shop of every local, state and federal resource for behavioral health treatment. The portal is built from the Network of Care program that DHMH launched a year ago and is specifically targeted for veterans. Maryland is the first state in America to launch this program and we sincerely hope we’re not the last. I don’t want to steal Bruce and Chris’ thunder, so I leave it to them to highlight how the site works.
And I’ll close with this thought: We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude. They have given us our freedom and our liberty and bravely served in harm’s way. These brave men and women are returning to our care and, sadly, we’re seeing far too many of them fall through the cracks of a dated federal VA system.
When we saw this in Maryland, we didn’t point fingers and say, “This is a federal responsibility.” We chose to act. And we built a national model for what states can do to improve veteran services because we believe that is how we can begin repaying the debt we owe to our veterans.
Now, it’s my pleasure to turn to the podium over to Secretary John Colmers who can speak in greater detail about the services we’re providing for our veterans.
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