Bill with $36 million for Tri-Cities VA clinic passed by Senate

KENNEWICK, Wash. — “The veterans definitely have a place in my heart,” Ryan Washburn, who works with Tri-Cities Veterans, said.

Washburn is the Coordinator for Benton County’s Therapeutic Veterans Court.

A Navy Veteran himself, Washburn said it’s easy to relate to the men and women he helps.

“I went through it and I struggled myself and I found the right path, my passion, my following,” he said.

Veterans court works closely with the Columbia Basin Veterans Center, which serves veterans throughout Tri-Cities.

It’s led by US Marine Corps Veteran Matthew Sammons.

“We pride ourselves on just being a one stop shop for finding services for veterans,” he said.

Both men said resources for veterans in the Tri-Cities are being pushed to their limit, especially after the pandemic.

“Very much so, especially with mental health services as a whole everyone’s feeling it, seeing it,” Washburn said.

“A lot of my generations’ of veterans coming home, that’s the need is the mental health aspect,” Sammons added.

There is a VA Clinic in Richland, which is an extension of the VA Clinic in Walla Walla.

These men said our Tri-Cities veteran population needs more.

“There’s fantastic providers in there, but unfortunately enough there’s not enough of them so the idea that we’re going to get an actual VA clinic here is great,” Sammons said.

“We’ve actually began being able to refer some to community providers but once they go out to community providers they’re running into the same thing that our mental health court participants are running into. It’s causing a strain on everybody,” Washburn said.

But, there is hope, in the form of a bill.

It’s called the Honoring Our Pact Act, and Senator Patty Murray was able to get a provision on the bill that secures $36 million to fund a Tri-Cities VA Clinic.

In a press release, she said it would reduce the strain on the Walla Walla VA.

“As far as services in the Tri-Cities, it is long overdue for something more,” Washburn said.

Murray’s office said the bill still has to pass through the House, get signed by President Biden and be implemented by Veterans Affairs, but these men are hopeful.

“I believe it’s going to happen there’s a lot of really great people that are making this happen and so it’s going to be amazing,” Sammons said.

Columbia Basin Veterans Center is located at 1020 S 7th Avenue in Pasco.

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