December 12, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin today applauded the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) announcement that it will fund three new positions in Maine to better serve the needs of justice-involved Maine veterans confronting homelessness, mental health, or substance abuse issues. The funding will support a Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) Specialist, a Health Care for Re-entry Veterans (HCRV) coordinator, and a specialist focused on veteran suicide prevention. VA Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman made the announcement during the First Annual Military Veteran Symposium in Portland this morning.
“Maine veterans answered the call to uphold our freedoms, and those struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, or homelessness deserve our comprehensive support,” Senator King said. “These new positions in Maine provide veterans with expanded access to specialists so they can get the treatments and services they need. Maine is a community – we care for our neighbors and for each other – and with the VA’s announcement today, we have taken an important step to strengthen our community and better care for veterans across the state.”
“As our population of veterans has grown, aged, and diversified, the Togus VA Medical Center has adapted to these changes to meet the needs of patients,” said Senator Collins. “Today’s announcement that the VA is funding three critical positions at Togus to help promote suicide prevention, assist veterans returning to society, and prevent unnecessary criminalization of those with mental illness will enhance the hospital’s work to provide high-quality care for veterans. I applaud the VA for making this important investment.”
"The high rate of veteran suicides is one of the most heartbreaking issues our country faces. We owe it to these brave men and women to do everything we can to prevent these tragedies and ensure they have someone to turn to. I appreciate the VA giving attention to this and other issues Maine veterans face. These new staff positions will be critical additions to the team at VA Togus,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).
“Tragically, too many of our Veterans face extraordinary mental and health challenges when they return from service,” said Congressman Poliquin. “We must make sure our Veterans have the help and support they need. I’m very pleased with the announcement of these new positions at Togus that will help provide important resources to our Veterans.”
In February, Senator King wrote to the VA urging the Department to fund a Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) Specialist and a re-entry specialist as part of the Veterans Justice Program. At present, there is only one VJO Specialist in Maine.
The Veterans Justice Program aims to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration of veterans by ensuring that they have timely access to VA services. VJO specialists provide direct outreach, assessment, and case management for justice-involved Veterans in local courts and jails, while acting as a liaison with local justice system partners, and re-entry coordinators provide critical casework to veterans returning to society.