UCLA looks to involve families in care for veterans with brain injuries

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A new clinic at UCLA aimed at treating military veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress will also extend treatment to patients' families.

The clinic will treat seven to ten veterans and their families at a time for three weeks living on UCLA's campus at the Tiverton House and then three weeks once they return home. Families attend all but one of the treatment sessions. 

"Families are suffering along with our wounded warriors," said Melanie Gideon, director of Operation Mend, which is running the Intensive Treatment Program. 

Gideon said a test group tried the program in January.

'"We had four servicemembers with their family members…and a dog, and the results were tremendous," she said. 

Gideon said participants called the it "life-changing" and one couple claimed it saved their marriage.

Families often bear the brunt of dealing with the sometimes pernicious effects of trauma, which can include everything from memory loss to depression and irritability. Gideon said previously, treatment was simply between the health care provider and the patient — leaving families without tools to help their loved one, or to cope with what can be a difficult road to recovery.

A military veteran cuts the ceremonial ribbon opening UCLA's new Intensive Treatment Program, which aims to help vets and their families cope with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.
A military veteran cuts the ceremonial ribbon opening UCLA's new Intensive Treatment Program, which aims to help vets and their families cope with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. John Ismay/KPCC

Pete Chiarelli, a retired four-star Army General, Iraq veteran, and program adviser, said the clinic targets the post-9/11 wars’ signature injuries.

"The most prolific wounds coming out of this war are not those who’ve been shot, or lost an arm, a leg or multiple limbs," Chiarelli said. "Quite frankly it’s those with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress."

Chiarelli said such injuries are difficult to diagnose, and often manifest in the form of misconduct. And if left untreated, can cause service members to get kicked out, and cut off from the care they need.

The Intensive Care Program is open to all post-9/11 veterans, regardless of what type of discharge they received from the military.

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