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January 06. 2014 9:37PM

Report: NH health care professionals need to improve veterans' care

New Hampshire health care professionals have to do a better job of understanding the issues that confront veterans, especially PTSD and traumatic brain injury, according to a commission formed to study issues dealing with the two war-related injuries.

The commission reported that veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam rank embarrassment as their number-one reason for not getting needed treatment or services. The second-highest reason was a feeling that providers did not understand them, according to the final report of the Legislative Commission on post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Meanwhile, a survey found a need among physicians and psychologists to become more familiar with military culture and the unique needs of veterans, the report found.

"Stigma is synonymous with disgrace, dishonor and shame," reads some of the strongest language of the report. Stigma, the report recommends, must be attacked with education, compassion and accessible health care.

"The single best way to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families is to end the cycle of mental health crisis," reads the report.

The commission plans to present the report to Gov. Maggie Hassan on Friday. On Jan. 16, it will be the subject of an afternoon presentation at the Legislative Office Building that is scheduled to include New Hampshire Adjutant Gen. William Reddel and other military and civilian leaders.

The chairman of the commission, Jo Moncher, is a bureau chief within the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services tasked with overseeing military programs.

She said New Hampshire is the only state in the country with such a position.

The report said New Hampshire is home to 113,100 veterans, the fifth-highest concentration of former military personnel in the country.

Moncher said the commission will support legislation to give it permanent status so its work can continue when it comes to fighting the stigma of the battlefield diseases, educating health care providers about military culture, and building a continuum of care between military and civilian programs.

The report notes that the New Hampshire Medical Society has already formed an alliance with state health officials to create a public education and awareness campaign regarding veterans.

And the report recommends that all health care providers ask new patients if they have served in the military.

"This question, if not asked, leaves a myriad of information undiscovered that might be critical to the acute and long-term care of that individual," the report reads.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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