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NH Leading the Way for Veterans: Military Connection

military connection nh

By Debbie Gregory.

Three initiatives have been launched in the state of New Hampshire, all in an effort to assist the medical community better serve their military and veteran population.

The first initiative will impact the 10 community facilities run by the NH Dept. of Health and Human Services. This landmark effort will position a dedicated staff member at each facility who is committed to providing resources and specialized services to veterans, military service members and their families. Their goal is to provide individualized care in order to streamline their services.

Commissioner Nick Toumpas confirmed that according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, no other state has developed this type of program soley for military personnel, veterans, and military families.

The other two other initiatives focus on health education, and are currently in place across the state. Easter Seals NH has created a program called “Ask the Question,” encouraging health care providers and other services to ask patients whether they have served in the military during their preliminary screening of patients. This information is extremely helpful when planning a whole-patient approach to health care.

The other initiative furthers the ability to offer better care by helping health care providers learn more about resources available for their veteran patients. “Dare Mighty Things” is a group based out of Portsmouth, NH, that gives providers a better understanding of veterans’ unique needs and available resources specific to those needs. One positive example of this program’s efforts was shared by patient Nick Tolentino, scheduled for surgery at Exeter Hospital. Tolentino had a violent wake up experience after surgery while in the military. He admitted he was reluctant to ever share this with civilian clinicians, primarily due to the stigma he felt it carried. Tolentino acknowledged what haunts him and many veterans alike; the guilt of surviving war when friends at his side were killed.

“You’re always fighting the stigma,” he said. “You were fighting it over there. You’re fighting it when you come home.”

Tolentino’s experience at Exeter was calm and successful thanks to the communication between the surgical team and the support staff at Dare Mighty Things.

New Hampshire lacks a full-service VA hospital, yet has the nation’s fifth highest percentage, a full 11 percent, of veterans. The Manchester-based facility works closely with neighboring Vermont, whose facility in White River Junction closes the gap of their patients’ needs. Directors of both facilities have had positive outcomes to the new initiatives, indicating that the collaboration between government, military and civilian agencies has been successful.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

NH Leading the Way for Veterans: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Long Wait for Mental Health Appointments: Military Connection

el paso

By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans in the greater El Paso, Texas area are still facing challenges when it comes to receiving mental health appointments in a timely manner. This is happening, despite the national focus to improve VA patient care nationally.

Twice monthly, the US Department of Veterans Affairs issues updated statistics on pending appointments in all 141 VA areas and the affiliated clinics. In the most recent report, four facilities in El Paso revealed they average nearly a 17-day wait period – the worst statistic in the state.

The El Paso Health Care System, while improved from its 64-day waits in the last two years, tops the facility backlog to an average 21-day wait for an appointment.

The El Paso VA covers Southern New Mexico and West Texas. It includes the Las Cruces clinic, El Paso Eastside Community Based Outpatient Clinic, Integrated Disability Evaluation System Fort Bliss, and the region’s busiest location, the El Paso Health Care System.

Staff shortages appear to be a significant factor in this inability to manage the volume of patients. The VA standard is 7.2 staff to every 1,000 veterans. El Paso is well below that at 5.5 per 1,000. The most needed positions are nurse practitioners and psychiatrists. Hiring incentives and recruitment efforts are being offered, but recruitment does take time.

Amid the recruitment efforts for clinicians, the El Paso VA Health Care System is seeking a permanent director as well.

Brian Olden, El Paso VA chief of mental health, assures the concerned community that veterans in crisis will be attended to immediately.

“When a veteran shows up at this facility and they’re in a crisis and they need to be seen right away because they’re in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, they will be seen,” he said. “No veteran who shows up and needs immediate care will be turned away.”

While clinicians are being sought and hired, the immediate effort to assist veterans is offered through the VA Choice program. This provision allows veterans to see health care providers outside the VA system if the VA clinic cannot meet their appointment request in 30 days, or for those who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. Veterans can then return to their VA facility of choice when appointments are available.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Long Wait for Mental Health Appointments: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Study Finds that Veterans Need Support to Cope

veteran_family

By Debbie Gregory.

A recent study has revealed that Veteran students have a difficult time overcoming the use of avoidance coping strategies, often linked to anxiety and depression. Using avoidance coping strategies means that one minimizes or completely ignores negative thoughts or emotions. But with the support of their families and friends, they increase their probability for success.

The study was conducted by the Veterans Experiencing the Transition to Students (VETS) project, which is directed by Dr. Shelley Riggs, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of North Texas (UNT). For the study, 165 Veterans, from every military branch, who are currently attending one of three universities in Texas were surveyed. Of these students, 117 of them had been deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Veteran participants were surveyed about psychological symptoms, including PTSD, depression and anxiety. The Veteran students were also asked questions in regards to other aspects of their lives, including questions about their adjustment to college life, their sense of connection to their college communities, their coping styles, personal and romantic relationships, and their support networks.

The findings of the data collected through the survey showed that Veterans had a tendency to rely on avoidance coping strategies for stress. This type of coping strategy is prevalent (and, at times, is necessary) for service members who have missions to accomplish. But for those who have separated, the continued use of this type of coping strategy is often tied with anxiety and depression, and tends to interfere with a Veteran’s successful adaptation and psychological functioning in a school setting.

The study also found that Veterans who used problem-focused coping strategies, such as identifying problematic stress, and then took the necessary measures to resolve or overcome it, reported significantly lower levels of depression and generalized anxiety symptoms. But this was only successful in the cases who reported high levels of emotional support from family members.

Having a healthy support network has been found to be a vital component to the success of transitioning Veterans, in school, in the workplace and in their homes. Veterans need to make sure that they keep the lines of communication with their family and close friends open.

Like the message found in the popular song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Veterans should remind themselves that they, too, can get by with a little help from their friends… and family.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Study Finds that Veterans Need Support to Cope: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Funding for Medical Marijuana PTSD Study

medical marijuana

On December 17, 2014, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment approved a $7.6 million measure to provide for eight medical marijuana studies.

Included in the eight studies is a $2 million grant to research the effectiveness of marijuana to treat Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which was co-sponsored by the California-based nonprofit, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

The founder/executive director of MAPS, Rick Doblin, called the award a “big step forward for cannabis science and medicine.”

The research for a PTSD marijuana treatment study initially received approval last March from the federal Health and Human Services Department. The study was scheduled to get underway at the University of Arizona and other locations within a year. But the program was delayed after the school terminated the contract of the primary researcher, Dr. Sue Sisley, in July. Sisley and MAPS have worked for over four years to develop and win federal approval for the study.

The funding provided by the state of Colorado will help support the study, consisting of 76 Veteran volunteers, at two different sites. One site will be in Arizona with Dr. Sisley, although the exact location has not yet been determined. The other will take place at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, under the direction of Ryan Vandrey. The coordination and scientific integrity of the study will be managed by Dr. Paula Riggs from the  University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Marcel Bonn-Miller from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

The protocol for the study calls for Veterans with PTSD to be divided into groups, and receive the equivalent of two joints a day to either smoke or inhale by vaporization. Each participant will then submit weekly observations, and confirm that he or she had followed protocols.

As part of the federal government’s requirements for the study, MAPS must buy Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)-licensed marijuana, which is controlled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and that the marijuanais of the correct potency of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol needed for the research. Also, MAPS will need DEA approval, once it receives a delivery date for the marijuana.

The approval of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use has been a staple of political debates for decades. There have been strong opinions and points made for both sides of the argument. But the use of marijuana as a treatment for PTSD could sway those who were previously opposed to its use, as the alternative, use of opioids, have done little to nothing to combat the disorder. Much like drinking whiskey for a toothache, the opioids just numb the pain temporarily and don’t fix the problem. Medical marijuana may, or may not, be the answer. But Veterans who suffer from the service-connected disorder deserve the chance to determine whether it is or not.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Funding for Medical Marijuana PTSD Study: By Debbie Gregory