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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


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Mr. GOLDEN. Mr. Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I rise to offer my amendment to H.R. 3055. This amendment would increase by about $5 million the medical facilities account.

I did want to talk about a specific problem. I think that most rural States and communities understand that when it comes to trying to take care of our veterans, specifically, those who are struggling with mental health issues, and perhaps substance use disorder issues as well, it is an issue of care closer to home and access to care.

When we have a veteran in a State like Maine who is in need of acute mental healthcare services and needs long-term inpatient mental healthcare, it has become known in the veterans community in Maine that that care is only available to veterans, at closest, in Bedford, Massachusetts, or perhaps as far away as New York or even further in order to get access to those beds. It is the same when they are in need of long-term substance use treatment programs.

I have seen time and time again, working with veterans who are in need of those services, that this is a significant problem. It is a barrier to care. It keeps people from coming in the door at the VA to ask for help.

It is not just an issue in rural areas among veterans. The problem is mirrored in the greater community.

This is not an instance where veterans can go to the community to get long-term inpatient care because, to begin with, the beds aren't there in rural America. I think this is an instance where we really need the VA to step up to try to make sure that every State has a baseline capability to provide long-term inpatient mental healthcare services and substance use disorder services to veterans as close to their homes and their communities as possible.

Mr. Chair, I yield to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Wasserman Schultz), and I thank her for working with me on this issue and for all the work that she is doing on the committee.

I also thank the gentleman from Idaho (Mr. Fulcher) for joining me on this. I know Idaho is in the same boat as Maine on this one.

Mr. Chair, I yield such time as she may consume to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Wasserman Schultz).

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Chair, we have recognized that there is a lack of available overnight bed space for mental health patients at VA facilities, and this is a huge issue that the VA is facing. In fact, we did provide an additional $20 million within the medical facilities account in the base bill as an effort to begin to address this dire need.

This amendment will add an additional, vital $5 million to expand VA facilities and provide additional bed space for veterans requiring overnight mental healthcare. We can never do too much to provide mental healthcare for our veterans.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment. I congratulate the gentleman on his leadership on this issue.
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Mr. GOLDEN. Mr. Chair, I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.

I again thank Congressman Fulcher for joining me in this. It is critically important.

I think he made a great point. With care closer to home, it is about relationships, and it is about trust when serving a population like veterans. Also, when talking about things like mental health and substance use treatment care programs, that kind of familiarity and trust goes an awfully long way.

I have talked to healthcare professionals who talk about continuity of care as well. Even in this age, with the internet, when trying to coordinate continuity of care from New York to Maine, when a veteran steps outside of that inpatient care, it becomes very difficult. This would all be solved, I think, or at least be much more efficient, if we had the ability to take care of our veterans in our home States, like Maine and Idaho.

Mr. Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOLDEN. Mr. Chair, I demand a recorded vote.

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