Civilians, Into the Breach

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U.S. troops watching their supplies arrive via airdrop in Afghanistan

I am encouraged recently to see that community-based, civilian clinicians want to be prepared to meet the mental health needs of returning veterans and their families. One great example is the extraordinary response to a free on-line educational series From the War Zone to the Home Front: Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Veterans and Families.  The series is a timely example of clinicians’ hunger for education on identifying and treating the “invisible wounds of war.”

The series is presented by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD.  More than 4,500 clinicians representing all 50 states and 10 countries are participating in the War Zone to the Home Front series. It is both live with real time Q/A — and then archived so clinicians can watch at their convenience. (The series began February 23 and continues every Thursday through May 24).

From the War Zone to the Home Front is aimed at primary care and community mental health providers, nurses, social workers, college and university health professionals, employee assistance programs, clergy and other first responders.  That’s exactly the right audience because while most of our military service members and veterans will receive their care at the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs, approximately 50% will seek medical care outside the VA healthcare system.  Clearly, there is a role here for the civilian medical community to play.

There are a lot of things that are right about the War Zone to the Home Front  series.

— First, the content, which is wide-ranging and informative, is pitched directly to the community clinician.

— Second, the faculty; all are nationally-known clinical and military experts affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital and the Home Base Program, the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, UCLA, Duke University, Boston University and Emory University.

— Third, the price. The series is free, and as a community service, Mass General Hospital and Home Base are offering continuing medical education and continuing education credits to all participants at no cost. That’s a good thing, because most community mental health providers can’t afford to pay huge sums for this kind of education.

The Home Base Program and the VA National Center for PTSD should be applauded for stepping outside the box and helping to fill this enormous need.

To see a full description of the weekly sessions, a complete list of faculty, and to register for the series, visit the War Zone to the Home Front.