Golden, Banks Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Pilot Mental Health Telemedicine for Rural Veterans

August 7, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Continuing his mission to improve mental health care for his fellow American veterans, Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) introduced legislation today that would create a new pilot program to pioneer mental health telemedicine services for veterans in rural areas. Golden introduced the bill with a Republican Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03). 

The bill, the Veterans Access to Online Treatment Act, would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to create programs at three VA facilities across the country to use computerized cognitive behavioral therapy to treat veterans suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, military sexual trauma, and/or substance use disorder. In Maine, Togus would be eligible to participate as one of the facilities. 

“For veterans who live in rural areas far from a VA facility — and there are thousands in Maine — distance is a huge barrier to receiving care,”said Congressman Golden. “That distance can be dangerous if it keeps vets from seeking care for mental health issues. Telehealth alternatives are a promising way to address this problem for rural vets, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. My bill with Congressman Banks would establish a pilot program to expand remote mental health care for rural veterans, with the goal of creating nation-wide program using what we learn. That would mean better care for more veterans, and more veterans who can stick close to home — and their families — to get the help they need.”

“We’re pretty good at taking care of the physical wounds of war, but the unseen psychological wounds are far more difficult to treat,” said Congressman Banks. “I am glad to sponsor this bill with Rep. Golden that would pioneer innovative treatments for veterans suffering from mental health illnesses.”

Online options for treatment and therapy would be particularly valuable in rural states like Maine, where face-to-face access to mental health services is often difficult to come by.

Golden has prioritized improving veterans access to mental health care throughout his time in public service. In Congress, he has pushed for new mental health/substance abuse treatment beds to be built at Togusincreased funding for long-term mental health care at VA facilities, and worked to improve the VA’s telehealth services with the Maine delegation. During his time in the Maine State House, he helped create a commission to tackle veteran homelessness and increased funding for veterans services.

You can read the full bill here.