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Wounded Warrior Project Partners with VA to Heal Invisible Wounds

VA Brain Trust Brings Collaboration and Innovation to TBI and Mental Health Care

 

The Brain Trust brought in leading experts on brain injury and included a look at how research conducted for professional and college athletes, as well as veterans, can be used to better diagnose and treat head trauma for everyone.

 

BOSTON (June 13, 2017) – The numbers are staggering: an estimated 500,000 of today’s generation of wounded veterans live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and as many as 350,000 have traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The need is so great that a tasked federal health system for veterans cannot do it alone. It is why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) invited Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), other veterans service organizations, private hospitals, innovators, and health providers to take part in VA Brain Trust 2017.

The two-day event in Boston focused on the challenges of invisible wounds of war, brought ideas to the forefront, and highlighted collaboration between VA and partners.

“Brain Trust has inspired a new approach to collaborative partnerships across VA,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin, who welcomed participants to the event. “While VA is uniquely positioned to contribute to the care of veterans with traumatic brain injury, we’re able to accomplish so much more when we work strategically with our private and public sector partners. We look forward to working with our partners to improve care for veterans — as well as all Americans – affected by brain-related injuries.”

“Wounded Warrior Project was honored to be invited to take part in VA Brain Trust 2017,” said WWP CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington. “We can best help warriors across the country by working together with government, nonprofit, and private sector organizations. Veterans answered the call to serve; now we have to respond to their call for help.”

The Brain Trust brought in leading experts on brain injury and included a look at how research conducted for professional and college athletes, as well as veterans, can be used to better diagnose and treat head trauma for everyone.

A presenter looked closely at the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – an ailment victims of brain trauma deal with later in life. CTE manifests itself years after the initial trauma, creating new problems, inhibiting motor functions, and exacerbating PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. In recent years, CTE has been linked to serious issues with retired football players and found in the brains of these athletes after they died by suicide. Brain researchers find increased collections of a tau protein in the brain but can only identify this buildup after death. Forming the connection between brain injury and CTE could mean the challenges veteran health systems face will get worse as veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn age.

“Treating head trauma and the combined mental health challenges today is already a complex issue,” said Mike Richardson, WWP vice president of independence services and mental health. “We have to work together to find lasting and impactful interventions.”

Richardson knows about the health care needs of service members. During his 32-year Army career, his roles included director of the Disability Evaluation System for Army Medicine, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion for US troops in Europe, and he oversaw patient movement for service members going in and out of Iraq. He now heads Warrior Care Network®, a partnership between WWP, four top academic medical centers, and VA that provides world-class mental health care for veterans and their families around the nation.

“These facilities continuously share information and lessons learned with each other to improve the mental health care provided to our veterans,” Richardson said. “VA, in a sign of true collaboration, has liaisons in each medical center to ensure a smooth transition between VA care and Warrior Care Network.”

As part of the Brain Trust, VA spotlighted Warrior Care Network in one of three breakout sessions. Attendees heard from Richardson; Mike Allard, chief operating officer of Home Base, a Warrior Care Network partner; and Jennifer Perez, VA national director of transition and care management. Network medical centers provide a year’s worth of therapy during two- to three-week intensive outpatient programs.

The efforts of Warrior Care Network are seeing positive and clinically significant results immediately after treatment and continued improvement months later.

Everyone also got to hear the touching story of a Coast Guard veteran injured nearly 20 years ago and her husband, who is her caregiver. The two shared how their VA case manager provides support now and peace of mind for the future.

The second day of VA Brain Trust focused on innovation. Fifteen organizations presented ideas to collaborate with VA on addressing mental health needs of veterans. Some presentations showed new ways to diagnose brain injuries; others, technology to help warriors living with PTSD or TBI; and some looked at means to treat ailments and reduce their impact.

Judges selected three presenters and committed VA support to pilot their programs:

The Daptly Display is a visual assistant of sorts. A voice and gesture-controlled display in a mirror can help a warrior with TBI go through his or her day. It will alert the warrior to upcoming appointments, make reminders about taking medicine, and with the use of facial recognition, even track emotions.

TBI recovery acceleration uses ocular therapy to stimulate healing of the brain.

The third presenter, Save a Warrior, uses peer-to-peer programs to help wounded veterans in their recoveries.

WWP uses similar techniques through its own Peer Support Groups, connection events, and even warrior-led outings to get veterans out of isolation and together with other warriors.

“VA Brain Trust showed the Department of Veterans Affairs’ commitment to working with other organizations to provide the very best care,” Linnington said. “Wounded Warrior Project was proud to take part and looks forward to further collaboration to help today’s generation of wounded veterans.”

To learn and see more about how WWP’s programs and services connect, serve, and empower wounded warriors, visit http://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org/, and click on multimedia.

 

Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations

Email: rlouis@woundedwarriorproject.org

Phone: 904.627.0432

About Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) connects, serves, and empowers wounded warriors. Read more at http://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org/about-us.

 

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