Republican Assembly Member Devon Mathis held a news conference in Visalia one day before Veterans Day to complain that the state has dropped the ball in providing substance abuse services information to veterans.
Mathis, a military veteran elected to office last year and vice chair of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, represents Assembly District 26, which includes parts of Tulare and Kern counties and all of Inyo.
The state agency touts a help line phone number (800-879-2772) that is frustrating to use, he said.
“They get directed to a phone recording that goes on and on,” he said. “I’ve personally called this number. It’s connection after connection to a phone number to your county, and then it’s disconnected. This doesn’t help our veterans who are suffering.”
Mathis cited statistics supporting the need, including 10 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have substance abuse issues.
This doesn’t help our veterans who are suffering.
Assembly Member Devon Mathis
He said he recently learned about the problem from a constituent.
“States are required to provide and maintain an 800 helpline to route callers for assistance,” the department said.
Mathis also complained that the agency is wrongly saying that services are available from the now-defunct Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, which was eliminated a few years ago.
The agency is giving the outdated information to the California Department of Veterans Affairs, or Cal-Vet, which puts it in a resource book that veterans rely on and on its website, he said.
The Department of Health Care Services said the old Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs was integrated into it in 2013, but “there has been no change in the level of program support or funding for Substance Use Disorder (SUD) services as a result of that transition.”