Rep. Golden’s veteran mental health access bill becomes law in Maine


By Ramona du Houx

A bill sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, to help veterans get access to mental health care became law on August 2, 2017.

“This law will cover the cost of inpatient and outpatient mental health care for veterans, help cut dangerous wait times for veterans in crisis and gather data about the number of veterans who need care,” Golden said. “One of the goals of this new law is to use this data to help the state demonstrate to Washington the need for Department of Veterans Affairs inpatient beds here in Maine.”

Of the roughly 30,000 veterans in Maine who don’t use Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, health care services, it is estimated that more than 10,000 are in need of mental health services.

Photo: Rep. Golden, second from left, touring the Portland Jet Port with Transportation Committiee.

The bill, LD 1231, will gather data on mental health admissions to determine if the person seeking help is a veteran and whether they qualify for veteran’s services. It also sets up a pilot program to provide case management for veterans requiring mental health care. Golden’s floor speech on the measure is available here.

There are currently no inpatient mental health care beds in Maine specifically for veterans. Those requiring care through the VA are sent out of state.

"It's unacceptable that we don't have long-term inpatient mental health care options for veterans in Maine," said Golden. "We need to push the VA to fix this so that our veterans don't have to go out of state for the care they need."

The bill will go into effect immediately as an emergency measure that received the support of more than two-thirds of the Legislature.

Golden is a Marine Corps veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where he served as an Infantry Assaultman. He is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents part of the city of Lewiston. He is the Assistant House Majority Leader.