New Veterans Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program Will Come to Togus VA Following Advocacy from Maine Delegation
WASHINGTON — Today, Maine congressional delegation announced that the VA has approved the construction of a new 24-bed program requested by the members of Congress to provide residential substance use disorder rehabilitation and treatment to Maine veterans. The announcement comes after dogged work from Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02), along with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01), to advocate for the creation of the program.
“Maine veterans, particularly those with the unseen wounds of war, deserve to receive care here in our state,” said Golden, Collins, King, and Pingree. “But for years, veterans who needed treatment for substance use disorder and associated mental health issues for more than one night have been sent to other states, far from their family, friends, and support system. We’ve been working with the VA to right this wrong and we are very pleased to announce that a new 24-bed residential program to treat substance use disorder is soon coming to Togus.”
Construction on the facility will begin in 2021. It will begin accepting patients in 2022.
More than one in ten American veterans is diagnosed with substance use disorder and one in five veterans is estimated to have a mental health condition. Maine has among the highest percentage of veterans of any state.
Today’s announcement marks the culmination of many months of advocacy by the Maine congressional delegation for a residential VA substance use disorder treatment facility. That advocacy included:
- June 2019 - Golden presses Dr. Richard Stone, the Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration, for a plan to address the lack of long-term mental health and substance use disorder treatment services at Togus. Dr. Stone responded positively.
- July 2019 - Golden secures an amendment to increase funding for VA’s long-term mental health and substance use disorder programs as part of the House-passed minibus funding bill for VA and six other agencies.
- August 2019 - The Maine delegation writes VA Secretary Wilkie in support of a permanent long-term mental health care and substance use disorder facility at Togus;
- September 2019 - In a response to the Maine delegation’s letter, Secretary Wilkie acknowledges the need for a permanent long-term mental health and substance use disorder treatment facility at Togus.
- January 2020 - VISN1, the VA regional office overseeing Maine, submits an out of cycle funding request for a multi-bed substance use disorder facility at Togus citing “the need to correct a critical situation.”
- March 2020 - The Maine delegation reinforces their strong support for the mental health and substance use disorder program to VA Secretary Wilkie. The letter emphasizes “the crucial, immediate need for a permanent treatment facility at Togus to address the critical situation of rural veteran substance use.”
- June 2020 - VA Secretary Wilkie responds to the delegation’s letter stating that the agency is reviewing the proposal for a long-term mental health and substance use disorder facility at Togus and will share the results when the review has concluded.
- July 2020 - Pingree secures language in the report on the FY21 Military Construction -VA funding bill encouraging the VA to prioritize construction for expanding Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program facilities.
- July 2020 - Golden secures an amendment to fund an additional $20 million to repurpose vacant and underutilized space for veterans mental health needs, prioritizing construction to increase the number of beds available for overnight mental health treatment. Golden also took the House floor to make the case for the additional funding.
- August 2020 - VA concludes review and make decision to fund a permanent, long-term substance use disorder and mental health care facility.