JUSTIN BAILEY VETERANS SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS PREVENTION AND TREATMENT ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - May 20, 2008)
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Ms. BERKLEY. Madam Speaker, I also would like to thank the chairman of our full committee, Mr. Filner, for being so supportive, and the chairman of our subcommittee, Mr. Michaud, for helping to make this legislation a reality today. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be part of this important piece of legislation.
Nationally, one in five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. Twenty-three percent of members of the Armed Forces on active duty acknowledge that they have a significant problem with alcohol. Veterans must receive the help they need to deal with these conditions.
The effects of substance abuse are devastating, including significantly increased risk of suicide, exacerbation of mental and physical health disorders, breakdown of family support, and increased risk of unemployment and homelessness. Veterans suffering from mental health problems are at increased risk for developing a substance abuse disorder.
A constituent of mine, Lance Corporal Justin Bailey, was a 1998 graduate of Las Vegas High School. Upon returning from a tour of duty in Iraq, he was diagnosed with PTSD and was discharged from the Marines in 2004. He developed a substance abuse disorder, and with the encouragement of his parents, checked himself into a VA facility in west Los Angeles to get the treatment that he needed and recognized that he needed.
He sought treatment for a drug abuse problem, and yet he was given five additional medications on a self-medication program. With those five additional medications in his system, Justin overdosed and died on January 26, 2007.
The loss of a child is devastating enough, but what made matters worse is the way that Justin's parents were treated by the VA. They were treated with indifference and apathy at the West L.A. facility that their son died at. They were handed Justin's belongings in a trash bag.
Last August, 8 months after Justin's death, the Baileys returned to Los Angeles to meet with the Chief of Staff at the West L.A. facility. They came away from the meeting feeling that the Chief of Staff had been completely unprepared and seemed out of touch with the needs of the veterans. The Chief of Staff went so far as to state that his staff didn't know how to treat veterans of the Iraq and Afghan war because they were young, and the staff was not tough enough on these younger veterans, they tended to give them anything they asked for.
I'm very pleased that the committee included my amendment to require the VA to conduct a review of all residential mental health care facilities, including domiciliary facilities, and agree to rename the bill in Justin's honor. I know this means a great deal to Justin's family.
Passage of the Justin Bailey Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Prevention Act will help to ensure that we have the mental health resources and substance abuse treatment programs needed to care for our veterans. The assessments of residential mental health facilities required will help us to learn how well the VA is performing and what we can do to improve these services, including expanded availability at VA hospitals.
The availability of treatment for PTSD, including substance abuse disorder counseling, will save many lives. This must remain a top priority.
A review of the services provided to our veterans is needed to ensure that what happened to Justin does not happen to anyone else ever again.
It's imperative that we provide adequate mental health services for those who have sacrificed for our great Nation and those who continue to serve.
I wholeheartedly support H.R. 5554 and urge my colleagues to do the same.
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