Two leaders in active duty and veteran mental health studies to close

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By Brett Copeland, Executive Director

Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute

On the June 20th program of “America’s Heroes Group” with Cliff Kelley, representatives from a veterans healthcare non-profit warned about the closure of two major institutions that impact the long-term mental health of active duty and veteran members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

VHPI Senior Policy Analyst Suzanne Gordon and former Department of Veterans Affairs mental health policy leader Harold Kudler write in an Op-Ed that the U.S. cannot address real mental health needs “if we dismantle two of the most powerful engines built to support servicemembers, veterans, their families, and our nation as a whole.”

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) and the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP), are part of the Department of Defense (DoD) based at the Uniformed Services University (USU) and could be closed by 2022. They also cost just a fraction of the DoD’s annual budget to operate.

“Today, with the coronavirus pandemic and the protests following the death of George Floyd, the strains that lead to mental health problems and suicide among this population are even more severe,” they write. “It is baffling that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) being considered by Congress would result in the shuttering of two critical programs that help clinicians, policymakers, administrators, and the general public better understand and respond to the consequences of military trauma.”

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) opened in 1987 to advance research, treatment, and training to mitigate the impact of trauma from war, disasters, terrorism, community violence, and public health threats. Its work has resulted in numerous innovations, including the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS), the largest research project ever conducted among military personnel to understand and prevent military and veteran suicide.

“Since trauma can ripple through generations, CSTS’ Child and Family Program brings desperately needed attention to the effects of a parent’s combat injuries or death,” writes Gordon and Kudler. “Just as it did after 9/11, the Center’s mission reaches beyond the military community to develop and share some of the best guidance available on the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP), has led the nation in training military, VA, and civilian health professionals on military culture and deployment-related behavioral health since 2006. CDP equips civilian providers to identify, understand and treat servicemembers, veterans and their family members whose background, health risks and access to health resources differ greatly from those of the vast majority of their patients. CDP has trained over 40,000 providers nationwide through their ever-expanding teaching network.

When asked what could be done to prevent the cuts, Gordon said that Congress needed to be alerted before it was too late. “Call your lawmakers because these cuts are concealed in cuts to the Uniformed Services University. They’re not line items, and many lawmakers may not even know they’re in the NDAA.”

Read the full op-ed, “[Two Mental Health Centers Hit with Defense Budget Cuts]” on www.veteranspolicy.org.

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