Murray lauds PO chamber’s efforts to support troops

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray made three diverse stops in Kitsap County on Thursday, calling on an innovative small business, a chamber of commerce luncheon and a proposed public assistance facility.

And while Murray won’t play favorites with any of the state’s 39 counties, she does recognize Kitsap’s special qualities.

“There is a sense of pride and community ownership in Kitsap County that will sustain it through anything we might do to it on the federal level,” she said.

As an example, Murray related her lunchtime conversation at a table with Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel, South Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel and other community leaders.

“Someone mentioned a new project and everyone around the table were all asking how they could help,” she said. “There is a stability here, and a real sense of community.”

At the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, Murray lauded the city for its efforts in supporting National Guard troops returning from Iraq.

“This is a great community that stands up for its neighbors,” she said.

“I want to thank you for standing up for those who served you. These soldiers are making a sacrifice for every one of us. We need to make sure we take care of those returning. These people signed up to serve our country, so we should make sure to take care of them when they get home.”

Murray credited the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce and its former president, Debbie Austin, for setting up a roundtable to discuss veteran’s affairs. As a result, Murray said she sponsored several similar meetings around the state.

Murray said National Guard returnees have needs beyond those of a regular soldier, since they do not depend on a military base to provide support.

Murray has taken up the veterans’ cause in the Senate, getting the money to fund VA programs and allocating funds to help combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),

Murray criticized the Bush administration for launching an investigation into soldiers who may have faked the disorder.

“This was the wrong message at the wrong time,” Murray said. “No one who has this disorder should be told that someone thinks they are cheating the government.”

Murray said the stress level was elevated in the Iraqi war because it goes on around the clock and never stops.

Earlier, Murray visited Paladin Data Systems in Poulsbo and saw a preview of the Outbreak Detection Information Network (ODIN), a program that collects data from emergency rooms and other medical facilities to predict any health anomalies.

This also ties in with Murray’s favorite cause, since the data can be used to measure the effect of PTSD.

Murray lauded Paladin for its innovative work, saying that it was a good example of great minds creating good ideas set in a beautiful place in order to create jobs.

“It’s very important that we balance public health needs with privacy concerns,” she said. “We don’t want to get in a situation where we face a Katrina-type disaster and we’re sitting around wondering what to do.”

A Paladin representative explained the program did not use personal data to create its aggregate and that the data was separated from the individual’s name by the health care provider.

Murray said final funding for ODIN would come through in the next ten days.

Murray’s final Kitsap Stop was at a press conference for Kitsap Community Resources, to announce the construction of a new $6 million facility in downtown Bremerton.

Murray helped secure $500,000 funding for the project.

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