Last week, I had the privilege to accompany our Representative Holly Stover with a tour of Togus. This tour included a meeting with Tracye Davis, director of the Togus hospital (VHA), and with Christopher Holly, acting director of the Regional Office of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and Chris Smith, staff assistant to the Regional Office director. One focus area with Director Davis was the issue of mental health facilities available with the VA in Maine. Today, if a veteran needs long-term treatment, they have to go to facilities outside of Maine, and sometimes as far away as New York. Since participating in this treatment is voluntary, veterans often opted not to get the treatment they need. Director Davis has a background in the area of mental health in the VA system and has taken this problem as a priority. She stated that often the root problem is substance abuse. So, under her leadership, Togus applied for a grant to establish a substance abuse treatment facility in Maine and she is very optimistic that it will be approved. In 2014, 55 Maine veterans committed suicide. At a rate of 48.3 suicides per 100,000 vets, Maine's rate far outpaces the nation's which is 38.4 per 100,000. Of the 55 veteran suicides, only five where in the VA system. It is likely that if they weren’t being treated by the VA, they were likely not being treated at all. Since substance abuse was often a contributing factor, a treatment facility in Maine just might have reduced the number of suicides. Just saving one veteran’s life would be worth the investment! Starting next month, the veteran organizations in Maine will once again be meeting with the directors of the VA, as well as representatives of our congressional delegation, so I will be able to keep you up-to-date on the status of this grant, as well as other issues of interest to veterans and the community.
Honor Flight Maine has two more flights this year, Sept. 20-22 and Oct. 25-27. All World War II veterans have the priority and there is still room. The best way to apply is on line at www.honorflightmaine.org. If the veteran is not able to go online, I will meet with the veteran and get the application submitted. All veterans, including Vietnam, cold war, and post 9/11 veterans should submit their applications. You don’t have to be a combat veteran as HFM honors all veterans. It is the goal of HFM that every veteran in Maine will be able to see their memorials in D.C. eventually.
Don’t forget to call the Legion (633-4487) to reserve a table at the Sept. 14 yard sale. It would be gratefully appreciated to sign up early so the Yard Sale organizers can be appropriately prepared. We currently have nine tables reserved.
The next breakfast will be Sunday, Aug. 25. Spread the word, bring the family, bring your neighbors, make it a community event.