A private foundation unveiled plans Wednesday to build special centers to treat mental and physical brain trauma of the U.S. military, with ground broken on two today and the group looking to raise $100 to construct others.
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF) will build the first two centers at Fort Belvoir, Va., and Camp LeJeune, N.C. These National Intrepid Centers of Excellence (NICoE) will treat those suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post -traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The new facilities — which will cost $11 million each — could prove a blessing to thousands of service members living with head injuries from exposure to IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the IFHF.
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF) – which also announced a $100 million fundraising program to support the effort – will build the first two centers. And the others that will follow are being located at military bases and medical centers around the country “to provide medical care for service members without having to separate them from their units or leave their families for extended periods of treatment,” the foundation said in its press release.
“This proximity to family and friends is expected to enhance their care and rehabilitation,” the release said.
The 25,000- squar- foot NICoE Satellite Centers are set to be completed and given to the Department of Defense in roughly three years.
The design and mission of the Satellite Centers are based on the original NICoE, opened in 2010 at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
Operated by the Department of Defense, NICoE is the most advanced facility of its kind in the country, and is the center of the Armed Forces’ efforts in researching, diagnosing and treating TBI, PTSD and related injuries sustained by military personnel. Hundreds of service members have received some form of diagnosis or treatment from NICoE in the last two years.
“Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress are invisible wounds that so many of our men and women in uniform are suffering from as they return from service in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Arnold Fisher, Honorary Chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund,” said in a statement.
“They struggle with the most basic elements of life: how to tie shoelaces or remembering their spouse’s name,” he said. “It is our duty as Americans to care for these men and women who have worn the cloth of our nation in battle, and sacrificed a piece of themselves for our freedom. We need to make every resource and method of treatment available to them to speed their recovery.”
Each NICoE Satellite Center will incorporate:
• Intake/Clinic area: psychiatric testing, chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, neuro psych testing rooms, and exam rooms.
• Physical Therapy: open gym layout with physical therapy equipment including adjustable mat tables, parallel bars, treadmills, alter-G gait trainer, and other therapy items.
• Sleep Lab: one sleep room, equipped with a sleep system and ambient therapy music, and a control room with a computer monitoring system.
• Central Park: a unique and multi-purpose environment to support physical therapy and family activities, with features including a therapeutic labyrinth for meditation and focusing exercises and a natural setting with trees, shrubs, and water elements.
• Family Room: providing a reprieve space for patients and family to spend time together and take a break from the clinical treatment regime.
“Although American combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, the suffering of our wounded heroes is not,” said Richard Santulli, chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
“TBI can afflict soldiers for years after their injury and can have devastating effects on their ability to work, interact with family, and function in society,” he said. “Extreme injury can lead to suicide, which claims far too many of our heroic veterans. Our nation owes the best care possible to those who have sacrificed so much for us, and NICoE and the Satellite Centers will help us fulfill that responsibility.”
Most reports of TBI among Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom service members and veterans has been traced back to Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, used extensively against Coalition Forces. Symptoms can appear immediately or weeks to months following the injury.
“Recovery from brain injury varies by individual and degree of damage,” Dr. James Kelly, director of NICoE, said in a statement. “Although little can be done to reverse the initial damage, immediate medical treatment is essential for stabilizing, preventing further damage and beginning physical and mental rehabilitation,”
“Often severely TBI patients will require surgery to remove or repair ruptured blood vessels and bruised brain tissue, as well as any other complications due to brain trauma,” he said. “For many TBI sufferers, there is medication and alternative medicines which can mitigate symptoms such as headaches, chronic pain, behavioral problems, depression, seizures and chronic pain, once the extent of the injury is diagnosed.”
There was also a quote from several generals in the press release.
“Fort Belvoir’s role in providing medical care and treatment has grown
dramatically in recent years and this center will further enhance the medical community’s ability to effectively treat the ‘invisible’ wounds of war,” said General Lloyd Austin, U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff. “We are proud to be partnering with and grateful to all those who have helped to make this NICoE Satellite Center program a reality.”
And a colonel’s comments:
“Our greatest honor at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital is providing safe, quality and compassionate care to our nation’s heroes – the men, women and their families who selflessly serve our country,” said Col. Susan Annicelli, hospital commander.
“This gift from the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and its generous donors will help us expand our joint and shared commitment to heal the invisible wounds of war in a collaborative healing environment.”
And another general:
“The Marine Corps is honored to welcome one of the first National Intrepid Centerof Excellence Satellite Centers to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the largest amphibious base on the East Coast,” said General Joseph Dunford Jr., Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.
“Building the center here will enable us to provide localized advanced research and care for our Marines and Sailors suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and other related afflictions.”
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