Congress Does Something For The Peace Corps

With political theater controlling the culture in Washington, it can be nice to know the quieter work of government can still be done.

The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 passed the Senate on Monday, September 24th, 2018 and heads to the White House. This bill seeks to improve volunteer support and overall operations of the Peace Corps program. Several of the bill’s proposed reforms are sorely needed and long overdue.

The Peace Corps has historically struggled to provide their volunteers living in foreign countries the services and support they need. For example, Peace Corps volunteers are still being prescribed mefloquine for malaria medication, a drug whose usage was scaled back years ago by the Department of Defense because of adverse side effects. Further, Peace Corps volunteers in several countries don’t have a trained medical professional in their country to provide mental health services, and valuable institutional knowledge is often lost because most Peace Corps employees can only work a maximum of five years for the program.

This bill aims at fixing those problems and more.

Under the proposed law, the Peace Corps will follow the CDC recommendation of offering prophylaxis for malaria treatment. Moreover, the legislation provides for greater resources to hire licensed mental health professionals in the field, countering the current regime, where volunteers in some countries have to traverse time zones and poor phone signal to contact mental health professionals back in the United States. The Act also allows for the extension of Peace Corp employees appointments, if their positions are deemed critical, a step which will enable the Peace Corps to retain more individuals with valuable experience.

The congressionally-approved legislation also contains a plethora of other reforms aimed at improving safety, supporting volunteers, and increasing accountability and oversight of the program.

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga), who joined several other Senators in introducing an earlier version of this legislation on January 10th, 2018, stated: “I appreciate my colleagues’ commitment to providing greater protection and safety for our Peace Corps volunteers whose work and goodwill produce results for both the communities they serve and the United States. I hold our Peace Corps volunteers in high regard, and I’m thankful that this legislation that honors the memory of Nick Castle has passed the Senate and will soon be signed into law.”

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