Commissioners learn about veterans program

Veterans Services Officer Dee Baley-Hyder told Linn County commissioners Tuesday, Oct. 4, that Linn County Veterans Services will soon be able to assist veterans negatively affected by Agent Orange and chemicals released from large fire pits during the Gulf War.

In August, Congress passed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, what Baley-Hyder called the “largest health care and benefit expansion in Veteran Administration history.”

The program, she added, will aid veterans exposed to toxic chemicals as far back as the Vietnam war era on a budget of $300 billion over 10 years. The act adds 23 new presumptive conditions and could affect 5 million veterans or their survivors.

Veterans Services has had 23 inquiries since September, Baley-Hyder said, and the program doesn’t start until January.

Baley-Hyder also said the county has helped families recover $831,820 in benefits since July 1, compared to $363,328 for the same time period a year ago.

Veterans Services has also used all of the $11,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs to provide transportation for veterans who can’t drive and need transportation to medical services.

Linn County committed up to $20,000 to supplement the program, and Baley-Hyder has used about $6,617 of that allotment.

“This has been very popular,” she said. “We have trips booked through mid-October already.”

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Approved paying $6.73 per pole annually to rent space for the county’s fiber optics lines on Pacific Corp poles. IT Director Steve Braaten said the rate is unchanged from the present and the county uses 94 poles.

♦ Approved a $150,000 four-year contract with Sparkle Laundry Services to provide laundry and dry-cleaning services to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

♦ Approved a $4,931,947 change in the Linn County Public Health Department’s budget due to an influx of money from the state. Because the money amounted to more than 10% of the approved budget, the county needed to approve a supplemental budget according to Oregon law.

♦ Approved a $1,062,500 Personal Services Contract with Intercommunity Health Network to help pay for staffing to expand the county’s Alcohol and Drug outreach, especially in schools and among members of the homeless community.

Board Chairman Nyquist said he would like to see the program weighted heavily toward helping children affected by Oregon’s decriminalization of drugs ranging from marijuana to heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer