NORFOLK, Va. – On Tuesday, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine toured the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) in Norfolk.
This was Senator Kaine’s second visit to MARMC since December.
READ: Warner and Kaine meet with MARMC command after Sailor suicides
Tuesday’s visit with Rep. Bobby Scott and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro was to talk with service members about access to mental health care.
“Are there enough services to provide? Do people feel comfortable coming forward if they need help? These are the kinds of things we have to deal with,” said Senator Kaine. “There are particular aspects of the circumstances of the people who work there that add stress to what can already be a stressful job.”
The visit also comes as the mental health of seafarers has been in the news for nearly a year.
These include four apparent suicides linked to MARMC News 3 learned late last year. At last check, these causes of death are still under investigation.
In April 2022, three suicides were linked to the USS George Washington when the aircraft carrier was docked in Newport News.
“I think if it’s a really too long shore deployment while the ship is being refurbished, or if it’s because of something beyond your physical control, or if you’re in that different capacity, it wasn’t exactly what you thought you were going to do, how do we make sure you’re still appreciated, that you still understand that you have a really important purpose,” Senator Kaine said. .
Kaine also addressed additional resources to assist service members assigned to MARMC.
“They now have a chaplain and two counselors, kind of integrated into that workforce, which they didn’t have until October 2022,” Kaine said. “It’s garnering significant praise from command down to the base.”
One issue, Kaine said, that came up during Tuesday’s visit was how long it takes to get an appointment at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.
“Is it a resource problem? Is it a labor issue? Is it something unique to Portsmouth, or to this community that is different in other communities,” Kaine asked. “If we’re not doing well and bringing people in when they need them, then obviously we have work to do.”
In December, Kaine said the National Defense Bill of 2023 passed by the Senate last month will help provide service members with access to mental health services.
Meanwhile, he told News 3 on Tuesday that he wanted to pursue the issues discussed after this latest visit to Hampton Roads.
“I am in dialogue with family members who have been through this, who had a loved one in the military who committed suicide,” he said. “I’m in dialogue about what was helpful and what wasn’t, what were the shortcomings and what more can be done.”
One MARMC sailor who took his own life last October was 22-year-old Kody Decker.
Kody’s mother, Melissa Will, spoke to News 3 on Tuesday night about Senator Kaine’s visit.
“I am delighted with his visit, and it is encouraging that Senator Kaine has taken such a positive approach and an interest in really trying to find the root cause of some of these problems and access opportunities to gain help,” Will “I really appreciate that Senator Kaine is advocating for more resources, awareness, access points, anything to help get these sailors on board. I also appreciate his work in trying to enforce Brandon’s law. I feel like someone is listening.”
Last September, Rep. Scott sent a letter to Navy Sec. Del Toro urges appointing a director of psychological health at every Navy and Marine Corps installation.
If you, or someone you know, is having a mental health crisis, call Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
LINK: Hampton Roads Mental Health Resources
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