This week, U.S. Rep Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., announced $1 million is headed to the University of Central Florida (UCF) to further help veterans recover from PTSD.
The federals funds, which come from the Army, will go to UCF RESTORES, an innovative program in which veterans suffering from PTSD are in an intensive, three-week outpatient program.
“UCF RESTORES has been a valuable tool in our efforts to treat Central Florida veterans and first responders dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of trauma,” said Murphy who was able to help secure $1 million for the program last year as well. “I’m very proud to announce that the U.S. Army continues to make meaningful investments in our community that will allow servicemembers, veterans, and first responders to receive cutting-edge treatment that will assist them in their road to recovery.”
The program has achieved real successes in returning veterans to a normal life. When completed, 66 percent of patients with combat-related PTSD and 76 percent of first responders no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. This success rate is two to three times better than more conventional PTSD treatment therapy programs.
Dr. Deborah Beidel, the director of UCF RESTORES, wants to keep improving the program.
“We would like to thank Congresswoman Murphy for her unwavering support and leadership, as well as recognize the strong support of our other champions within the Florida delegation,” said Beidel. “This funding will allow us to develop new tools to further improve the treatment outcome for those suffering from PTSD. To provide the highest level of care, based on the most rigorous science, is not just our goal, but our commitment to everyone whose life has been changed by trauma.”
The program uses a new technique called exposure therapy. The treatment uses virtual reality simulators, often times taking a veteran right back to combat situation to relive the trauma. If done repeatedly, the memory of the event no longer causes as much anxiety, resulting in substantial decreases in PTSD symptoms.
Despite the successes, the program has experienced some rough spots. After being started by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2011, funding for the program was zeroed out by the federal government in 2016, leaving it on the verge of extinction. Since then, the state of Florida and private donors have kept the program alive.
There could be more funds coming down the road. Murphy said that another $1 million is expected in the near future to continue to develop new virtual reality software to make treatment of PTSD even more effective.
Reach Mike Synan at email@example.com.