Veterans Deserve Better Mental Health Care

The mental health crisis in Oregon is ongoing and unforgiving. For veterans, specifically, there are too few programs dedicated to ensuring our continued recovery from combat. As a veteran, I have seen firsthand the impact that effective and meaningful inpatient care programs have on veterans and their families. I completed the inpatient military program at Cedar Hills Hospital, to which I reflect upon over a year of sobriety and continued, sound mental health. I am grateful for the care I received at Cedar Hills; however, I am proof there is a requirement for additional military-specific mental health services in our community.

Oregon is home to more than 300,000 veterans, and they are twice as likely as non-veterans to commit suicide. Few service members are able to return from combat unscathed and ready to take on whatever is required of them – as the vast majority of us require treatment or other assistance to help us successfully integrate back into public life. For me, without the overwhelming support, endless effort, love, kindness and flexibility shown by the entire staff at Cedar Hills, Military Program I cannot imagine where I would have wound up.  

The amount of required bed space to accommodate such a rampant issue is the elephant in the room. When I arrived at Cedar Hills, I spent nearly half of my stay in the “civilian” section of the hospital, as there were no beds available in the section of the hospital specifically dedicated to members of the military. While the care in the civilian section was good, it was nothing compared to the recovery I experienced once a bed became available in the military section. Being housed alongside fellow service members added a layer of care, protection and invitation that I was unable to receive when committed to the civilian portion of the hospital.  In fact, I feel that recovering with fellow service members was the one ingredient which helped me succeed. I am now confident that I will never have another drink the rest of my life and am now able to help those in need – as other service members did for me.

Fortunately, Oregon has an opportunity to address our lack of beds for service members: Senate Bill 1054. This bill would streamline the process of building much needed mental health facilities for veterans, active duty service members and their families, by eliminating the requirement that new facilities “prove” there is a need for more beds. That requirement is simply red tape, because data and common sense show that Oregon does need more inpatient beds. I can say with confidence from my own experience, there is a demand for mental health programs and SB 1054 would help meet that demand.

All veterans and service members deserve the quality care I received at Cedar Hills. The passage of SB 1054 would help provide a variety of needed mental health services. The bill will help service members, like myself, make a full and meaningful recovery. As this bill moves through the Oregon Legislature, I encourage our elected officials to vote yes to allow new facilities to add to Oregon’s supply of mental health services.