In previous columns I've written about the critical role nongovernmental groups play in meeting the mental health needs of our veterans. The most notable is Boulder Crest Retreat, a privately funded, nonprofit wellness center in Bluemont, Virginia.
The latest philanthropic player to make a splash in the veteran mental health care arena is billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen. And what a big splash it is.
Inspired by his son, a Marine who served in Afghanistan, Cohen pledged $325 million to address the mental health needs of our nation's war fighters. His most notable contribution is the Cohen Veterans Network. Headed by Dr. Anthony Hassan, a distinguished Army enlisted member and Air Force officer, Dr. Hassan is charged with standing up free mental health clinics for veterans and their loved ones across the country. To date, the network has five clinics up and running in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Addison, Texas.
Cohen is also funding Cohen Veterans Bioscience, a research group looking to advance the prevention, detection and treatment of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions. Overseen by successful clinical researcher and pharmaceutical executive Dr. Magali Haas, Cohen Veterans Bioscience plans to harness the promise of biotechnology for the broad goal of improving brain health.
The pledge by Cohen and the efforts of his teams can't come at a better time. As our country grapples with the fact that out of the 2.7 million men and women we've sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of them are struggling with the emotional, neurological and physical aftereffects.
Sadly, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent developing and refining treatments for PTSD, we've made relatively little progress. Veterans have a few "good" talk therapies available to them, but they are far from cures. Even after successful treatment, many veterans continue to meet criteria for the PTSD diagnosis. And medications have even less of a successful track record.
As I've said many times before, we must turn to private-sector funding, research and innovation if we're to address the veteran mental health crisis that faces our country. If not, we risk being stuck in "good enough" mode and fail to adequately address the psychiatric needs of our veterans. Our veterans and their loved ones deserve better.
To learn more about Cohen Veterans Network and Cohen Veterans Bioscience, visit www.cohenveteransnetwork.organd www.cohenveteransbioscience.org.
Bret A. Moore, Psy.D., is a board-certified clinical psychologist who served two tours in Iraq. Email him at email@example.com. This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey specific psychological or medical guidance.