NORFOLK, Va. – Virginia Senator Tim Kaine visited the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MAARMC) in Norfolk on Tuesday.
Kane’s visit to MARMC was the second since December.
READ: Meeting with MARMC command following Warner, Kane and Sailor’s suicide
Tuesday’s visit with Rep. Bobby Scott and Secretary of the Navy Carlos del Toro included discussing access to mental health care with military personnel.
“Are the services we provide good enough? Do people feel safe moving forward when they need help? These are the kinds of things we have to work on,” said Senator Kane. . “There are certain aspects of the environment of the people working there that add stress to what can already be a stressful job.”
The visit also marks seafarers’ mental health being at the forefront and center of the news for nearly a year.
These include four apparent suicides linked to MARMC News 3 that came to light late last year. At last check, the cause of these deaths is still under investigation.
In April 2022, three suicides were linked when the USS George Washington was docked at Newport News.
“Because the ship is being refurbished, either it’s a very long shore deployment, or it’s because of something you can’t physically control, or it’s in this different capacity that’s completely different than you thought, I I think, how do you make sure you’re still being valued? That you still understand that there’s a purpose that really matters,” Senator Kane said.
Kane also touched on additional resources to support military personnel assigned to MARMC.
“They are now incorporating a pastor and two counselors into their workforce, which they didn’t have before October 2022,” Kane said. “It’s got a lot of praise, from commanders to common soldiers.”
Kaine said one of the issues raised during Tuesday’s visit was how long it would take to get an appointment at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.
“Is it a resource issue? Is it a workforce issue? Is it unique to Portsmouth, or is it unique to this community, unlike any other,” Kane asked. If we’re not doing well and can’t get people to the door when they need to, obviously we have work to do.”
In December, Kaine said the 2023 Defense Bill, which passed the Senate last month, would help provide military personnel with access to mental health services.
Meanwhile, he told News 3 on Tuesday that he wanted to delve into the issues discussed after his recent visit to Hampton Roads.
“I am interacting with families who have gone through this, families who have loved ones who committed suicide in the military,” he said. “We talk about what worked, what didn’t, what was lacking, and what more could be done.”
One of the MARMC sailors who committed suicide last October was 22-year-old Kody Decker.
Kody’s mother, Melissa Will, spoke to News 3 Tuesday night about Senator Kaine’s visit.
“I am delighted to see Senator Kane take a proactive approach and interest in addressing access to opportunities to get help, really trying to get to the root causes of some of these issues. “I’m really encouraged by what Senator Kane has been advocating and pushing for more resources, awareness, access points, anything that helps get these seafarers’ support,” Will said. I appreciate it, and I appreciate his work in trying to enforce the Brandon Act.I feel like someone is listening.”
Last September, Senator Scott sent a letter to the Navy Department. Del Toro urges each Navy and Marine Corps facility to appoint a director of psychological health.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Link: Hampton Roads Mental Health Resources