Opioids May Not Be Good for Treating PTSD. Really?

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If the devastating implications weren’t so gut-wrenching, many of us would be rolling in the aisles with laughter.   Unfortunately, Karen Seal of the San Francisco VA Medical Center has sadly concluded that “the use of opiate pain medications in those patients (veterans suffering from PTSD) is, frankly, risky.”  According the Austin Statesman, “a growing body of research shows that PTSD and powerful prescription drugs can be a deadly mix.

“Six months ago, a study of 141,000 veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts concluded that combining prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone with PTSD was like pouring kerosene on a fire: Those with mental health diagnosis were nearly three times more likely to be prescribed opiates than veterans without PTSD. Worse, they were also much more likely to have poor outcomes, including overdoses.”

Almost anyone with half-a-wit could have reached the same conclusion several years ago.  In fact, SFTT has reported on many occasions that the prescription of opiates to those with PTDS symptoms has certainly exacerbated problems for veterans and may have turned these troubled warriors into junkies.  Why?   Institutional barricades have been erected to protect those complicit in providing improper treatment to tens of thousands veterans who certainly deserve better care.   Why should anybody be surprised that the government is now throwing another $100 million to help better diagnose PTSD.   Can we expect a better outcome?  If you think so, then you probably believe in the tooth fairly.

What about the 2006 study reported by the Austin Statesman quoting University of Washington pain researcher Mark Sullivan who wrote that the: “Use and abuse of opioids appears to be common in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder.”   Wouldn’t it have been wiser to throw $100 million at alternative treatments for PTSD than for the VA and Defense Department to pretend they are  now doing something “right” because the pharmaceutical lobby was calling the shots all along.

I don’t mean to be cynical, but drugs are big business and the pharmaceutical companies that provide expensive, addictive and dangerous drugs have a vested interested in keeping the public and their Beltway puppets in the dark on the long term effects of these powerful drugs.  Who suffers?  The taxpayer and the brave young men and women who have sacrificed so much for this country.

If you want your voice to be heard, consider adding your voice to SFTT and help get our veterans the treatment they deserve.

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Henry Grayson: Alternative Approach to Treating PTSD

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In a revolutionary but very down-to-earth book entitled Use Your Mind to Heal Your Body, Dr. Henry Grayson, the founder of the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City, provides a “recipe” for wellness that focuses on practical concepts and techniques for using one’s mind to relieve stress, tension and, even cure disease.

Daniel J. Benor, MD, author of Seven Minutes to Natural Pain Relief writes:

“In this book, Dr. Grayson presents a radical view of health and healing based on an equally radical world view that we are all intrinsically connected rather than separate and that our belief in our separateness is a causal source of emotional and physical illness. Positing the body as the recipient of our beliefs, he shows that reading and responding to the body is a reliable path to emotional and physical healing. This is a challenging read with practical help for all willing to explore beyond the borders of traditional beliefs.”

Dr. Grayson is co-chairman of SFTT’s Medical Task Force and has provided several day-long training programs to care-givers and clinical psychologists  dealing with veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (“PTS”).  SFTT and others have reported at length that medication alone is not sufficient to deal with a problem that is approaching epidemic proportions.  OxyContin may have been the drug of choice for the VA, but it had serious consequences for veterans where the issues run far deeper that masking the symptoms with over medication.   In fact, Dr. Grayson points out the added complications of prescribing anti-depressants.

Dr. Grayson was a Protestant minister before receiving his Ph.D. in psychology from Boston University and post-doctoral certification in psychoanalysis from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. In working with troubled veterans, it has become abundantly clear that there is no “silver bullet” or single therapy to treat veterans suffering the effects of repetitive deployments on hostile battlefields. While Use Your Mind to Heal Your Body is applicable to help people of all walks of life cope with depression and serious ailments, it also provides a blueprint of how alternative treatments applied in a constructive manner can help address some of the problems faced by returning veterans.

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PTSD Charitable Fundraising Event in NYC on June 26th

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Let’s spread the word to raise money to help our troops with PTSD.

Found below is a letter/email blast from a concerned citizen encouraging people to attend SFTT’s fundraising event at the Gotham Comedy Club in NYC on Tuesday, June 26th.  Signup online and support our troops with more than lip service.

Attached is an invitation to an SFTT fundraising event, which will be held on the evening of Tuesday, June 26th at the Gotham Comedy Club on West 23rd Street.

As the invitation details, the purpose of the event is to benefit soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). As the media has widely reported, early in those conflicts PTSD didn’t seem to be a major problem — although the symptoms often don’t manifest themselves until years after the trauma occurred.

I became interested in this issue during my own military service. Although I served only several years on active duty, it was at a time when many Vietnam veterans were beginning to exhibit signs of what we now call PTSD, and (in retrospect) neither the Veterans Administration nor other medical communities were quick enough to recognize the problem and/or be prepared to assist the suffering veterans. (In prior conflicts, the recognition and care were even worse, and the condition was often referred to as “seeing the elephant” (a Civil War term), “shell shock” (World War I), “battle fatigue” (recall General Patton slapping the emotionally-crushed soldier), etc.

Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, the condition is now worsening among this generation’s war veterans. One key problem is the repeated redeployment of our troops to Iraq and, now, to Afghanistan. Apparently, the risk of suffering from PTSD increases geometrically with every deployment to a combat zone, and some of our troops have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan 4 to 5 times.

As a result, not only are reported cases of PTSD increasing, but so are instances of suicides among returning veterans. Indeed, early in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, the suicide rate among soldiers was much lower than that of the general public. Now, the rate among soldiers exceeds that of the general public, and reportedly is increasing.

Of course, the Veterans Administration is attempting to address this problem, but the VA has its limits, and in any event, more always can be done, and many private groups have tried to step into the breach. Thus, the purpose of this fundraiser.

As for the two hosts, I don’t know Eilhys Hackworth (a link to an interview with whom is included below), but I do know that she is the widow of Col. David Hackworth, who was a legend in the Army, and one of the most decorated soldiers of his time.

The other host is General John Bastiste, whom I have known for 39 years since I was his roommate during my brief ROTC student exchange visit to West Point. John obviously went on to have a superb career, and especially to have garnered a stellar reputation in Iraq as the commanding general of the fabled First Infantry Division. (John’s West Point classmates include Marty Dempsey, currently the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Dave Petraeus, now the CIA director).

Although John now is in private industry serving as the president of a steel corporation, he has been utterly unselfish with his time and unflagging in his efforts to help the soldiers who served under him readjust to civilian life and to cope with any difficulties/disabilities — such as PTSD or physical injuries (such as loss of eyes or limbs) — which they may have suffered in the service of their country.

I hope you can make it to this worthy event, and certainly, please feel free to circulate this invitation to anyone whom you think might be interested in attending. The more the merrier.

I haven’t checked out the website for the sponsoring organization, SFTT (“Stand For The Troops”), but it likely enables a person to make a contribution via the internet.

Anything you could do to help would be greatly appreciated — including by spreading the word.

Call me with any questions.

SFTT targets PTSD: Interview with Eilhys England Hackworth

 

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Senate Unanimously Approves National PTSD Awareness Day

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The United State Senate unanimously approved legislation authored by

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The event is part of Senator Conrad’s continuing efforts tobring greater awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), a severe anxiety disorder often associated with having experienced the trauma of combat.

For the third year in a row the Senate passed Senator Conrad’s resolution designating June 27 as National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. The day is intended bring greater awareness about PTSD and help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health issues.”National PTSD Awareness Dayshould serve as an opportunity for all of us to listen and learn about post-traumatic stress and let all our troops — past and present — know it’s okay to come forward and ask for help,” Senator Conrad said.

The Senator is encouraging individuals and veterans’ organizations across the country to use June 27 as a day devoted to promoting greater awareness of PTSD as well as its treatment and research.

Senator Conrad developed the idea for a National PTSD Awareness Day in 2010 after learning of the efforts of North Dakota National Guardsmen to draw attention to post-traumatic stress by paying tribute to their fallen friend, Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, who served in the 164th Engineer Combat Battalion. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour in Iraq.The date for National PTSD Awareness Day — June 27 — was inspired by the birthday of Staff Sgt Biel.

The Department of Defense has stated that more than 90,000 service members have been clinically diagnosed with PTSD since 2001 and the Veterans Administration (VA) has treated more than 217,000 veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq for PTSD. And many cases of PTSD remain unreported.

To learn more about post-traumatic stress and locate facilities offering assistance, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD .

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SFTT applauds Senator Conrad and his colleagues in the Senate for taking the initiative of increasing public awareness of the problems faced my many brave young men and women who suffer from PTSD.  Nevertheless, there is increasing evidence that the V.A. simply lacks the resources or resolve to deal with the complexities of helping our warriors deal with PTSD.  Medication alone is not enough and thousands of brave young men are simply not getting regular and effective treatment.

SFTT is convinced that more effective and sustainable treatment and rehabilitation is likely in community-supported initiatives.  For this reason SFTT has established a medical task force to determine “best practices” in treating warriors suffering from PTSD.  The hope is that effective programs can be replicated in other communities in the United States to help there veterans reintegrate themselves into society and reclaim control over their lives.

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Honor, Stigma … and PTSD

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The following article entitled “Honor, Stigma…and PTSD” is written by Frank Ochberg who is the Co-Chair of SFTT’s Medical Task Force.   Dr. Ochberg has been dealing with the complexities of PTSD for some 40 years.   His words resonate even more strongly today as many troubled veterans are returning home to environments which may appear to be less hostile on the surface, but are equally dangerous nonetheless.  Our institutions are simply unprepared and, perhaps, unwilling to deal with the complexities of PTSD and, as such, we run the risk of losing an entire generation of brave warriors to the stigma and horrors of PTSD: the “signature wound” of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Join SFTT and help get these brave warriors the treatment they deserve.

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I’m an old guy from the Vietnam era, a psychiatrist who studied violence in the 1960s, who treated survivors of trauma in the ’70s and who helped create and nurture the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder through the ’80s.

There are a few dozen of us who are considered the pioneers of the modern era of traumatic-stress studies, and most of us are worried – deeply worried — on behalf of the current generation of veterans with invisible wounds.

We thought that by now there would be access to care whenever needed. We thought that by now there would be clear understanding that PTSD is a wound, not a weakness. We thought that a veteran who served honorably and received a compensable medical diagnosis for PTSD due to his or her service on the field of battle, would receive a medal for sacrifice.

But instead of honor, there is stigma. And this stigma must stop.

Stigma is an elusive concept. It means we mark a person or a whole caste of people for exclusion. Stigma may mean we mark ourselves as diminished, degraded and unsuited for inclusion and intimacy. Stigma is insidious, communicated in whispers, in gossip, and in gestures without words.

Why in the world, this enlightened world, would we stigmatize our veterans who come home with PTSD, or traumatic brain injury, or depression?

Perhaps we do it out of ignorance or fear or extrapolation from the few, atypical cases of domestic and criminal violence that grab headlines. When job opportunities are limited due to diagnostic labels, it is reasonable to avoid the label.

(MORE: Troop Mental Ills: Psychiatric or Organic?)

When advancement through the ranks is limited by labels, it is reasonable to reject diagnosis and treatment. So fearing the consequences to livelihood, some suffer in silence and, in a way, add to the climate of stigma.

There are now a growing number of us who have joined a campaign to change this climate of stigma. We cannot wait for the rate of suicide among young veterans to recede of its own accord. We cannot wait for the VA to catch up with its caseload of cases –veterans waiting months for an appointment. We want to change labels, to improve media coverage, to improve awareness, to emulate successful campaigns to reduce stigma, and to honor our veterans who bear invisible wounds.

Here are some activities we commend:

  • Support the request of former Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army, General (ret.) Peter Chiarelli to change the title PTSD to PTSI – for Injury. Anyone can endorse this campaign right here. But time is limited. It must be done by June 10 to be considered by those with the power to make the change. All the arguments for doing this are on the site.
  • Visit the Dart Center’s website, particularly if you are a journalist covering this topic. Reporters can do a better job covering trauma, war and PTSD. There are tools of the trade to improve accurate and sensitive reporting of those topics. Bloggers can benefit, too. Telling the true story of PTSD will reduce the stigma of PTSD.  (MORE: A Lone Madman or a Broken System?)
  • Attend National PTSD Awareness Day, June 27, on the Senate grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Sponsored by the veterans’ group, Honor For All, this gathering will honor all who have served and sacrificed, including those who took their own lives, struggling with “invisible wounds of war.”
  • Sign the petition calling on our president to establish a Presidential Advisory Committee to reduce the stigma of PTSD and related invisible injuries, earned in service to our country. This committee could tap leaders in all walks of American life, entertainment figures, professional athletes, architects of the successful campaigns on behalf of breast cancer. If football players can wear pink gloves to support breast cancer awareness, baseball players can swing purple bats on PTSD Awareness Day.

We will not defeat the stigma of PTSD easily. No single idea, petition, campaign or organization can turn public attitude around. Changing PTSD to PTSI is a significant step on the road to honor, away from stigma. The word, injury, is honorable in military culture and accurate in medical parlance. Let’s start there and move forward together.

UNQUOTE

Frank M. Ochberg, M.D., is the medical adviser of Honor For All, Co-Chair of Stand For The Troops Medical Task Force, having served in uniform during the Vietnam era. While Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, he helped define PTSD, then edited the first text on its treatment. At Michigan State University, he is clinical professor of psychiatry, formerly adjunct professor of criminal justice, and adjunct professor of journalism.

 

 

 

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A former Marine comments on the V.A.’s Shameful Betrayal

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In a heart-breaking story by Mike Scotti entitle ” below:

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THE Department of Veterans Affairs, already under enormous strain from the aging of the Vietnam generation, the end of the Iraq war and the continuing return of combat troops from Afghanistan, announced in April that it would increase its mental health staff by about 10 percent. But too many veterans waging a lonely and emotional struggle to resume a normal life continue to find the agency a source of disappointment rather than healing.

The new hiring is intended to address the infuriating delay veterans face in getting appointments. The V.A. says it tries to complete full mental health evaluations within 14 days of an initial screening. But a review by the department’s inspector general found that schedulers were entering misleading information into their computer system. They were recording the next available appointment date as the patient’s desired appointment date. As a result, a veteran who might have had to wait weeks for an appointment would appear in the computer system as having been seen “without a wait.” That allowed the agency to claim that the two-week target was being reached in 95 percent of cases, when the real rate was 49 percent. The rest waited an average of 50 days.

As a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, I found that news maddening. While the schedulers played games with the numbers, veterans were dealing with mental wounds so serious that getting proper attention at the right time might have made the difference between life and death. Even worse was that the V.A. had failed twice before to change; the inspector general found similar problems in 2005 and in 2007. This suggests a systematic misrepresentation of data and an unwillingness to stop it.

Unfortunately, the problem goes even deeper. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of veterans who are struggling with post-combat mental health issues who never ask the V.A. for help. Some, hamstrung by fear of stigma, are too proud or too ashamed to ask for help. Others don’t ask because they’ve heard too many stories from peers who have received poor care or been ignored.

I have close friends who could no longer drive because of their lingering fears of roadside bombs. Others had gone to the V.A. because they had suicidal thoughts, only to receive a preliminary screening, a pat on the back, a prescription for antidepressants — and a follow-up appointment for several months later.

I’ve had my own struggle: in 2001 I was part of the initial force of Marines who landed in Afghanistan, and in 2003 took part in the heavy fighting of the first wave of the invasion of Iraq. Since coming home, I’ve had my mind hijacked by visions of the corpses of children, their eyes blackened, at the side of the road. I recall carrying the coffins of fallen brothers. I remember losing friends who probably knew exactly what was happening to them, as they bled out on the side of a dusty road in Iraq.

And I’ve felt the shame of having suicidal feelings. Like many others, I chose to hide them. Yet, even in the darkest days of my own post-traumatic stress, when I was considering choosing between making my suicide look like an accident or taking a swan dive off some beautiful bridge, I never considered going to the V.A. for help.

My image of the V.A., formed while I was on active duty, was of an ineffective, uncaring institution. Tales circulated among my fellow Marines of its institutional indifference, and those impressions were confirmed when I left Iraq for home. At Camp Pendleton, Calif., a woman with a cold, unfeeling manner assembled us for a PowerPoint presentation and pointed us to brochures — nothing more, no welcoming sign of warmth or empathy for the jumble of emotions we were feeling. Her remoteness spoke volumes to me of what I might expect at home.

To regain veterans’ trust, the V.A. must change its organization and culture, not just hire more people. First, its leadership must be held accountable for employees’ behavior, and anyone caught entering misleading data should be fired. The agency must reach out, with public awareness campaigns and with warmth, to veterans who may be suffering in silence. It must help reduce the social stigma that attaches to the mental health issues the veterans face.

Dedicated V.A. personnel run a suicide-prevention hot line, but it is only a temporary salve for emergencies. One impressive and highly effective alternative to the V.A.’s traditional treatment process is the Wounded Warrior Project’s Combat Stress Recovery Program, which emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships, goal-setting and outdoor, rehabilitative retreats and seeks to avoid the stigma associated with traditional treatment.

What this generation of veterans needs from the V.A. is a recognition that when the color of life has faded to gray, you need to talk to someone about it today, not weeks or months from now. We need America to acknowledge what war does to the young men and women who fight it and to share the message that dragged me out of the darkness: It’s O.K. if you’re not O.K.

Mike Scotti, a former Marine, is the author of “The Blue Cascade: A Memoir of Life After War.”

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We hear you Mike.   Our thoughts – and action – are with you and the thousands of brave heroes who deserve proper treatment from the V.A.

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PTSD and the VA: A Disservice to Disabled Troops

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In an editorial opinion published in the New York Times on May 26th entitled ”

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The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have repeatedly promised to do a better job of handling the medical evaluations of wounded and disabled service members. Instead, they are doing worse.

The processing of disability cases is getting slower, not faster. Efforts to ensure a “seamless transition” out of the military are falling short. Men and women are languishing without treatment, struggling to readjust to civilian lives as they cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, drug addiction and other service-related afflictions. The system that should be producing reliable results is mired in delays and dissatisfaction.

A new report by the Government Accountability Office lays out the problem. In 2007, the two departments began combining their separate, complicated and cumbersome processes for disability evaluations into one system. The system is now in place worldwide, and officials from both departments promised the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee a year ago that it had become “more transparent, consistent and expeditious.”

But the accountability office found otherwise. It said processing times for disability cases had actually gone up — to an average of 394 days for active-duty troops and 420 days for National Guard members and reservists in 2011, well over the departments’ goals of 295 and 305 days. In fiscal year 2010, 32 percent of active-duty troops and 37 percent of Guard and Reserve troops completed evaluations and received benefits within established timelines. Last year, those figures fell to a dismal 19 percent and 18 percent.

What’s going on? The report says the causes are not fully understood, but it points to persistent staffing shortages, problems in collecting and reporting data, and differences among the service branches and between the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department in the way cases are diagnosed and tracked. The accountability office says it will make recommendations later this year as it sees whether promised improvements are taking hold, including a hiring push by the Army — a huge source of processing bottlenecks — and the V.A.

Senator Patty Murray, chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, deserves credit for focusing attention on these and other failings in a series of hearings, including one last Wednesday that examined the bureaucratic delays. She also used the hearing to bring up disturbing reports that doctors at an Army base in Washington State had repeatedly — and wrongly — rejected soldiers’ legitimate post-traumatic stress disorder claims.

Wounded and disabled service members should not be forced to wait endlessly without treatment or benefits while the government evaluates their injuries. Nor should they have to battle their own government for honest treatment. The evaluations should be accurate, not consistently wrong. Ms. Murray noted on Wednesday that there were about 27,000 military personnel in the system, three times the number in 2010. Many more are on the way. “Clearly, much work remains to be done,” she said. She is right. There is no excuse for more backsliding and delay.

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Enough “lip service” as Hack would say.  Let’s rollup our sleeves and help these brave heroes.

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Military Veterans with PTSD: A Failure of Leadership

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In the wake of a scathing report by the Inspector General which found fault with how quickly the Veterans Administration responds to the needs of veterans seeking mental-heath care, comes the inevitable hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth regarding how poorly we as a society treat our veterans.

While it is far easier to point fingers at the VA than propose meaningful solutions, it is evident that we have a serious and growing problem on our hands.  SFTT has reported earlier that government statistics suggest that

The question should not be limited to how quickly the VA responds to requests by veterans seeking mental-health care, but an overall evaluation of the effectiveness of the health-care or therapy that veterans actually receive from the VA.   Just because the VA is able to respond to a request for service within 24 hours is useful information, but shouldn’t the effectiveness of short and medium-term therapy and an evaluation of the overall rehabilitation of our veterans be the focus of any meaningful inquiry.

The magnitude of this problem in caring for veterans extends far beyond the treatment of PTSD as these statistics from John Kuhn, Acting National Directory, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (“SSVF”), suggests:

While many good-intentioned people are well aware of the problems facing our veterans and many studies have been funded to develop solutions, it is evident that the complexity of dealing with these issues has overwhelmed the capabilities of our institutional care-providers.  Yesterday, I attended a discussion hosted by the New York State Health Foundation on some of the challenges faced in providing “Community-Based Services for Veterans and Their Families.”

This fascinating discussion brought together care-providers and charitable organizations to determine how best to provide meaningful and effective services to our veterans.   The presentations and subsequent discussion suggested that there is no clear unanimity of how best to deal with the “well-being” issues faced by veterans, but that a community-based response seemed to offer the best prospects for success.    The Rochester Veterans Outreach Center was cited as an example of what can be done to mobilize local resources to help provide a community-based support structure for returning veterans.  Indeed, many other towns and cities appear to be feeling their way to develop similar programs within their own communities.

The key catalyst for change is leadership within the community to address the needs of veterans.  Those communities which appear to have the most resilient programs are those that recognized both the unique capabilities and needs of veterans and began the lengthy process of integrating the various local services, care-givers and donors to provide veterans with social services, education and employment possibilities that would probably have been overlooked in a “top-down one-size-fits-all” federally-mandated and managed program.

Clearly, essential and varied services provided by community-based and community-supported organizations seem to offer veterans and families a milieu of  services that can be tailored to the needs and aspirations of each veteran.  Unfortunately, these organizations often lack the visibility and/or capabilities to attract funding to support their initiatives.  Furthermore, there is little in place to benchmark performance and provide a meaningful framework to replicate successful programs for other communities.

Sharing success stories and evaluating available community-based services is essential to develop a framework to guide civic organizations and funding entities to support programs that have a reasonable chance of being successful.  For its part, SFTT and its newly created medical task force can help community leaders to develop programs that can attract the necessary resources to help change the lives of our brave veterans.

We are hopeful that community leaders will emerge and bootstrap similar programs to the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester.   The needs of our veterans are both varied and great and can be best met with inspired and dedicated local leadership supported by our Federal and State government institutions and charitable foundations.

Richard W. May

 

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Are Opioid Prescriptions the Right Answer for treating PTSD?

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In a series of alarming reports, the V.A. and medical profession are beginning to wonder if treating PTSD with Opioid prescription drugs is the right course of action.   Referring to V.A. records, U.S. Medicine reports that “more than 141,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with non-cancer pain. The prevalence of PTSD among that group is 32%, with 19% diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders.”

Of this group, “11% have been prescribed

U.S. Medicine goes on to report that “veterans with PTSD also were more likely to take higher opioid doses (22.7% vs. 15.9%), two or more opioids (19.8% vs. 10.7%) and concomitant sedative-hypnotic drugs (40.7% vs. 7.6%). Receiving prescription opioids was associated with adverse clinical outcomes for all veterans, but adverse effects were most pronounced in veterans with PTSD. Those outcomes included general wounds and injuries, accidents and overdoses, violent injuries and suicide attempts. While previous studies have shown that prescription opioids are more often prescribed for patients with psychiatric disorders, this trend was even more pronounced when the patient was diagnosed with PTSD.”

Lead author Karen Seal  of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the medication prescribed to veterans believes that the study results are troubling. ”The message to me is to keep redoubling our efforts to really have conversations with patients about these risks, and really provide them alternatives to just taking Vicodin or oxycodone or morphine, which has become very, very common in our society.”

It is becoming clear that our military leaders are now beginning to realize that these addictive drugs may, in fact, exacerbate the problems associated with PTSD rather than treat them.   In fact,  Bob Brewin of Veterans for Common Sense reports that  “the Army Surgeon General’s office is backing away from its long-standing endorsement of prescribing troops multiple highly addictive psychotropic drugs for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and early this month warned regional medical commanders against using tranquilizers such as Xanax and Valium to treat PTSD.

“An  Valium, could intensify rather than reduce combat stress symptoms and lead to addiction.

“The memo, signed by Herbert Coley, civilian chief of staff of the Army Medical Command, also cautioned service clinicians against prescribing second-generation antipsychotic drugs, such as Seroquel and Risperidone, to combat PTSD. The drugs originally were developed to treat severe mental conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The memo questioned the efficacy of this drug class in PTSD treatment and cautioned against their use due to potential long-term health effects, which include heart disorders, muscle spasms and weight gain.”

This greater awareness of the risk of prescribed opioids only confirms indications that SFTT has received from its sources “upwards of 80% of veterans suffering from PTSD also have an addiction problem.”     These new revelations are truly frightening and place a far greater sense of urgency in treating PTSD properly unless we plan on turning our brave veterans into addicts rather than cure them.

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MAJ GEN John Batiste (US Army Retired) Elected President of SFTT Board

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MAJ GEN John BatisteEilhys England, Chairperson of Stand For The Troops, is pleased to announce that MAJ GEN John Batiste, US Army (Retired)  has been elected President of the Board of SFTT, a nonprofit 501(c)3 educational foundation based in Greenwich, CT.  General Batiste, President and CEO of Klein Steel, brings to SFTT the benefit of three decades of military service, organizational leadership, and advocacy for America’s frontline warriors. Six years to the day after the passing of Col. David ‘Hack’ Hackworth on May 5, 2005, the legacy foundation that he co-founded with his wife Eilhys England continues to build on his life work of safeguarding the physical, mental and emotional well-being of America’s frontline serving and returning troops.

General Batiste is the product of a military family, (the son and son-in-law of veteran career soldiers), a graduate from West Point who served for over 30 years and a two-time combat veteran who led troops in two war zones, including Iraq.  In 2005, as a two star General, he refused to accept his third star that would have promoted him to become the second-highest ranking military officer in Iraq.  Instead, he resigned in principle, in protest at the prosecution of the Iraq war.

In the tradition of SFFT founder David Hackworth, John Batiste made headlines again in 2006 when he and six other senior retired generals (Batiste was the only General who had  held a high level position in the Pentagon and had commanded troops in Iraq) went public with their condemnation of the prosecution of the war in Iraq and called for the immediate firing of then Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.  It was dubbed the ‘Night of the Generals’ by the media.

In the Army, General Batiste rose from infantry officer to commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division -the “Big Red One”- which conducted successful peace enforcement operations in Kosovo and combat operations in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom II). His deployments, assignments and commands took him from Fort Benning to Bosnia (Operation Joint Endeavor), NATO, the Joint Staff at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. His final assignment in the US Army was commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, the “Big Red One,” from August 2002 to June 2005.  After retiring from active duty in 2005, he joined Klein Steel, a Rochester, NY company as its president.  He is a graduate of West Point, the Army War College, and the financial management MBA program at Naval Postgraduate School.

General Batiste’s support of veterans and their families includes service as a board member of the Rochester-based Veterans Outreach Center, founding president of the Rochester Regional Veterans Business Council, and a member of the board of advisors of the First Division Museum at Cantigny. As Committee Chair of SFTT’s PTSD Initiative prior to his election to Board President, he has been instrumental in focusing attention and resources towards prevention and treatment of the PTSD epidemic (on average 18 veterans every day commit suicide in the United States).

General Batiste succeeds Fred Tanne, P.C., a senior corporate partner in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Tanne is stepping down as President to co-chair SFTT’s critical new PTSD initiative that is working to establish diagnosis and treatment protocols, remove the stigma of PTSD that prevents many from seeking treatment, and get those most at risk into appropriate treatment. A resident of Mt. Kisco, he will continue to be available to the Foundation as a member of SFTT’s Advisory Board.

Continuing their service as SFTT Board officers, with Ms. England and General Batiste, are:

SFTT Vice Chair/Secretary Roger Charles, a Peabody award winning investigative journalist who’s been singled out for recognition for his coverage of the Oklahoma City bombings for ABC News and CBS 60 Minutes II – Abuse at Abu Ghraib – to mention just two.  At SFTT, he was also the driving force behind the May 2007 NBC Nightly News, Dateline and MSNBC investigative reports by Lisa Myers on inferior body armor.  Combined with Roger and Eilhys’ reaching out to US Senators, it resulted in a call for Congressional Hearings and further independent testing.  An Annapolis graduate, Roger Charles is a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War.

SFTT Board Treasurer Bob Evans, a national market manager for 3M in its Washington, DC office.  The son of a career Army Officer, Bob served as a division artillery aviation officer, artillery battery executive officer and troop commander at Fort Hood, Texas.   Bob is president of the prestigious National Order of Battlefield Commissions. It counts Audie Murphy and the late SFTT founder David Hackworth among its 1000 by invitation only members.

SFTT (www.sftt.org) is a non-partisan apolitical organization chaired by Eilhys England, a Greenwich resident who co-founded the organization with her late husband Col. David Hackworth, America’s most valor-decorated soldier.  SFTT is unique in its mission and uniquely qualified to carry out its mission to give a voice to our troops. SFTT provides a platform and voice for the brave men and women defending us on the frontlines, by educating the public and policy makers in Washington D.C. on the need to send our country’s brave warriors off and to welcome them back with the best available equipment, training and support to make it home alive in body, mind, and spirit.

For information on SFTT, visit the foundation’s website at www.sftt.org or phone 203–629-0288.

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