For Immediate Release - April 18, 2008

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION SIGNS LEGISLATION ESTABLISHING COMMISSION TO IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH CARE FOR VETERANS

First of its kind commission will study effects of war on the mental health of Massachusetts Veterans

BOSTON- Friday April 18, 2008-The Patrick-Murray Administration has signed legislation creating the Commission to Study the Hidden Wounds of War on Returning Massachusetts Service Members, a group that will study and investigate the mental health effects of war on those citizens of Massachusetts returning from active duty. A study released this week by the RAND Corporation estimates that 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We cannot allow the brave men and women who serve our country to struggle with treatable mental health problems," said Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, who chairs Governor's Advisory Council on Veteran Services. "This Administration is committed to ensuring that our veterans are cared for completely. We have already started to put the necessary supports in place including the recent launch of the Statewide Advocacy for Veterans' Empowerment (SAVE) program, and now, through this Commission."

In addition to studying the effects of war, the Commission will also establish a mental health treatment program for Massachusetts National Guard members, a state military family leave policy for caregivers and a statewide education training program to assist first responders in recognizing the early warning signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. The Department of Veterans' Services SAVE team is currently in the early stages of training first responders.

"At a time when our Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans are returning not only with physical injuries, but with many unseen, hard to diagnose Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and Traumatic Brain Injuries, we will stand with our veterans and their families to ensure the veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they have earned," said Department of Veterans' Services Secretary Tom Kelley.

The Administration worked collaboratively with Representative Anthony Verga (D-Gloucester) and Senator Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), as well as other legislative leaders to establish this Commission.

The Governor will appoint five members to the15- member Commission. Other members will include representatives from the Massachusetts Senate and House, the Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, the Commissioner of Probation, the Secretary of Veterans' Services, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Massachusetts Veterans' Service Officers Association, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.

"I applaud the Governor for recognizing the need to take Legislative action to provide the best possible mental health care to soldiers," said Representative Anthony Verga (D-Gloucester), House Chairman of the Veterans & Federal Affairs Committee and chief sponsor of House Bill 4526. "Through this Commission, Massachusetts could become one of a handful of states to permanently legislate a comprehensive post-deployment care program for both our Wounded Warriors and their families."

"Our men and women returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced incredible challenges abroad, and will also be faced with incredible challenges at home," said Senator Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). "We know that many soldiers coming back struggle with emotional and psychological wounds, in addition to physical ones. The commission, championed by Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) and Representative Verga, will ensure that policy-makers are well informed of the extent to which our veterans are struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and make certain that those afflicted by PTSD receive the treatment and support they deserve."

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