Legislative Update - February 27, 200927-Feb-2009
Friday, February 27th, 2009
This Friday marks the half waypoint of the 2009 legislative session. Over the past six weeks I have been inspired by the continued support and feedback I have received from my constituents. Recently I have gotten many responses to the Harford County Tax Credit for Seniors Bill and I am excited to tell you I have submitted the same bill for Cecil County. This week I have also been revisiting some of the ongoing issues concerning veteran’s health.
Tax Credit for Cecil County
I received many positive responses regarding the Harford County Tax Credit for Seniors, and as a result I have introduced an identical bill for Cecil County. Like the Harford County Tax Credit for Seniors Bill, this tax credit bill is enabling legislation that gives the Cecil County Government the option to provide a tax credit to eligible seniors who are a least 65 years old, living on a limited income and have owned their home for at least five years in Cecil County. The bill provides that the local government can determine any other eligibility requirements as well as the amount and duration of the credit.
While Harford and Cecil counties have passed some legislation regarding property tax credits, I am in the process of determining how effective and well funded those efforts have been. I am working with representatives from Harford and Cecil Counties to craft the best solution to help our seniors stay in their homes.Veteran’s Health Issues
As many of you know I have been working the past several years as an advocate for veteran’s issues. A particular issue we have been working on regards Veteran’s Behavioral Health and the mental illnesses associated with combat veterans. Last year I had the opportunity to co-sponsor HB 372 the Maryland Veterans Behavioral Health Bill. This bill created a Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board that has several important functions. This board will:
- Immediately analyze the behavioral health needs of veterans and their families;
- Identify gaps in behavioral health services available to veterans and their families;
- Identify access barriers for veterans and their families in obtaining available health services, particularly in rural areas of the State;
- Facilitate collaboration among organizations and entities, including hospitals, that provide behavioral health services to veterans and their families;
- Make recommendations to improve outreach to veterans and their families in need of behavioral health services;
- Promote federal and State collaboration to maximize funding and access to resources for the behavioral health needs of veterans and their families;
- Make recommendations to build provider capacity and increase provider training to meet the behavioral health needs of veterans and their families;
· Make recommendations to improve the coordination of behavioral health services for veterans and their families; and
· Make recommendations on methods to provide behavioral health services to individuals who are not eligible for benefits from the VA due to a dishonorable discharge or release for a reason relating to substance abuse or mental illness.
The creation of this board was an important step to addressing the unique mental health problems faced by veterans. For the thousands of soldiers flooding the VA, mental illness tops the list of ailments. 45% of VA patients have already been diagnosed with mental health conditions, including a startling 105,000 diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. This data does not include the incalculable number of veterans who need mental health care who have not received a diagnosis or haven’t sought treatment at the VA.
In 2008 at least 128 soldiers took their own lives. It marked the first time the Army rate has exceeded the national suicide rate for the corresponding population group since the Pentagon began systematically tracking suicides nearly 30years ago. This week I had the opportunity to meet with Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown to continue to monitor the state of Veteran’s Behavioral Health Issues. We are awaiting the report from the advisory board to determine what the next most prudent course of action is to best serve the needs of our veterans.
If you have a veteran in your life that is suffering from depression or symptoms of mental illness the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration has founded a national suicide prevention hotline to ensure veterans in emotional crisis have free, 24/7 access to trained counselors. To operate the Veterans Hotline, the VA partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Veterans can call the Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and press "1" to be routed to the Veterans Hotline.
Harford and Cecil Counties