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NH panel says soldiers' PTSD deserves more care, attention

Staff Report
January 16. 2014 8:53PM

CONCORD — When 110 New Hampshire National Guardsmen of the 237th Military Police arrived home Thursday after months in Afghanistan, it was a joyous occasion.

But the NH Guard’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. William Reddel, said it’s likely that some of those he welcomed home will eventually need to seek help for post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury as a result of their military experiences.

“It may not show up until four or five years down the road,” he said.

Reddel made the prediction at an event in the Legislative Office Building, where a two-year legislative commission presented its report on PTSD and TBI in service members and veterans in New Hampshire.

The report drew on surveys completed by 1,170 NH veterans, members of the NH Psychological Association and 80 military and civilian agency providers.

The commission was chaired by Jo Moncher, who heads the Military Programs unit in the Department of Health and Human Services, which commissioner Nick Toumpas said is unique.

“We did not create a lot of infrastructure,” he said. “We achieved it by making connections.”

A key recommendation of the commission, whose members included active and retired service members, medical providers and associations, veterans groups, NH State Police and state veteran service providers, is that all patients should be asked: “Have you ever served in the military?”

If the answer is “yes,” it can make a huge difference in diagnoses and treatment.

Other recommendations are to work on eliminating the perceived stigma of the PTSD and TBI diagnoses, providing training in military culture to care providers and more use of peer counselors who can identify the sufferers and accompany veterans to access services.

Moncher said there are an estimated 115,000 veterans in the state, the fifth-highest per capita veteran population in the country.

But she said New Hampshire does not have an active-duty military installation and is the only state without a full-service Veterans Administration Hospital.

In addition, some veterans are not eligible for care at the VA.

The result is that many veterans obtain their medical care from civilians who do not share the military culture experience and may not accurately diagnose PTSD or TBI.

The commission also recommended that a permanent commission on PTSD and TBI be established.

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