Sen. Kaine visits MARMC, talks with servicemembers about mental health

NORFOLK, Va. – Tuesday, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine visited the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) in Norfolk.

This was Sen. Kaine’s second visit to MARMC since December.

READ: Warner, Kaine meet with MARMC command following Sailor suicides

Tuesday’s visit with Rep. Bobby Scott and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro involved talking with service members about access to mental health care.

“Are there enough services to be provided? Do people feel comfortable coming forward if they need help? These are the kinds of things that we have to grapple with,” Sen. Kaine said. “There’s some particular aspects of the circumstances under people who are working there that add stress to what can already be a stressful job.”

The visit also comes as mental health among sailors has been front and center in the news for nearly a year.

These include four apparent suicides linked to MARMC News 3 learned about late last year. At last check, these cause of their deaths are still under investigation.

In April 2022, three suicides were linked to the USS George Washington when the carrier was docked in Newport News.

“I think, whether it’s a really, overly long shore deployment as the ship’s being re-furbed, or whether it’s because of something beyond your control physically, or if you’re in this different capacity that wasn’t exactly what you thought you were going to be doing, how do we make sure you’re still valued? That you still understand you’ve got a really important purpose,” Sen. Kaine said.

Kaine also touched on additional resources to help servicemembers assigned to MARMC.

“They now have a chaplain and two counselors, sort of embedded in that workforce, that they didn’t have before October 2022,” Kaine said. “That gets significant praise from the command all the way down to the rank and file.”

One issue, Kaine said, that was brought up during Tuesday’s visit was how long it takes to get an appointment at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

“Is that a resource issue? Is that a workforce issue? Is that something unique to Portsmouth, or to this community that’s different in other communities,” Kaine asked. “If we’re not doing well, and getting people in the door when they need it, then obviously we have work to do.”

In December, Kaine said the 2023 National Defense Bill passed by the Senate last month will help provide servicemembers with access to mental health services.

Meanwhile, he told News 3 on Tuesday he wants to dig into issues discussed after this latest visit to Hampton Roads.

“I’m in dialogue with family members who’ve gone through this, who’ve had a loved one in the military who have died by suicide,” he said. “I’m in dialogue about what was helpful and what wasn’t, what were the gaps, and what more can be done.”

One MARMC sailor who died by suicide last October was Kody Decker, 22.

Kody’s mother, Melissa Will, spoke with News 3 Tuesday night about Sen. Kaine’s visit.

“I’m pleased about his visit, and it’s encouraging that Sen. Kaine has taken such a positive approach and an interest in really trying to get to the root cause of some of these problems and addressing access for opportunities to get help,” Will said. “I truly appreciate Sen. Kaine advocating and pushing for more resources, awareness, access points, anything to help get these sailors support. I also appreciate his work to try and get the Brandon Act implemented. I do feel like someone’s listening.”

Last September, Rep. Scott sent a letter to Navy Sec. Del Toro urging to appoint a Director of Psychological Health at each Navy and Marine Corps installation.

If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

LINK: Hampton Roads Mental Health Resources

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