(WASHINGTON, D.C.)--"In the military, I was taught that we don't leave our wounded behind. Homeless veterans who are mentally ill and addicted to drugs and alcohol still carry the wounds of war with them. It is wrong and cowardly of us to leave them behind and deny them inpatient care." With those remarks, Daniel Shaughnessy, a member of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 495, will conclude his compelling testimony before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee schedule for: Thursday, July 19, 2001, at 1:00 p.m. in Room 418 of the Russell Senate Office Building.
Shaughnessy, an Addiction Therapist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Tucson, Ariz., with a Masters in Social Work, is eminently qualified to testify for AFGE in support of S. 739, which would help homeless veterans receive the care and treatment they need. He was once a homeless veteran with an alcohol addiction who lived on the streets in Southern California and Tucson.
"The lack of inpatient detoxification (detox) beds is a major barrier to treating homeless veterans," Shaughnessy will state. "For many veterans, delirium tremens, commonly referred to as DTs, can be severe enough to cause a heart attack. Detox beds are needed to prevent renal failure and other medical complications during this phase of treatment."
Shaughnessy will point out that the VAMC in Tucson has gone from six detox beds to three. "Yet just last week, serving as the intake coordinator for our substance abuse program, I received calls from 19 homeless veterans who wanted to get in those three detox beds," he will add.
"S. 739 will help rebuild and expand the homeless programs that helped others and me," Shaughnessy will state. In addition to the development of new domiciliary programs in the ten largest metropolitan service areas, Shaughnessy will urge that the legislation require the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to evaluate the length of stay and outcomes achieved in both DVA operated facilities and DVA contracted residential transition facilities.
"I have seen inpatient services shrink to the point that the sheer numbers of homeless veterans that need a bed overwhelm the staff because none are available," Shaughnessy will conclude. "As a representative of AFGE, I urge your support for this critically-needed legislation."