Advertisement
  1. Military

Inspiration for Cohen Veteran Network calls Tampa fortunate to have a clinic in its future

Charles Marmar, a pioneer in veteran mental healthcare who heads up a Cohen Veterans Network clinic at New York University, said Tampa veterans and their families will benefit from a network clinic opening soon. [Cohen Veteran Network]
Published Dec. 28, 2018

Speaking from experience, Charles R. Marmar said a Cohen Veterans Network clinic here in Tampa would be a good thing.

That's because as one of the pioneers in military mental health treatment, Marmar, a psychiatrist, opened one of the nation's first clinics to treat post traumatic stress disorder. And his experience helped lay the foundation for the network of mental health treatment centers being funded in part by billionaire hedge fund tycoon Steven Cohen, including the one set to open in Tampa around March or April.

Marmar, 73, was professor and vice chair of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco and associate chief of staff for mental health at the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. In 1989, he created one of the nation's first PTSD clinics for veterans there.

"It was an excellent model," Marmar said in a recent telephone interview.

Starting in 2009, Marmar became chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center and the NYU School of Medicine. In 2012, he established the center's Military Family Clinic designed to provide mental health services veterans and their families.

It was through that clinic that he met Cohen, thanks to a charitable organization called the Robin Hood Foundation.

In fall 2010, Cohen's son, Robert, deployed with the Marines to Afghanistan and the billionaire ramped up his efforts to help fund treatment for veterans. Marmar said Cohen became very interested in his work.

"The success of our clinic at NYU was in large measure an inspiration for Mr. Cohen to build his network, " Marmar said.

By 2013, the Cohen family foundation took over underwriting the Military Family Clinic at NYU Langone. Three years later, Cohen launched the Cohen Veterans Network, with NYU Langone its first location.

Backed by his $275 million commitment, the idea is to fill gaps in the Department of Veterans Affairs mental and behavioral health care programs — among other missions, providing services to veterans with less than honorable discharges who can only obtain VA care under certain circumstances. NYU Langone became the first network clinic. Tampa would be the 12th such clinic in the non-profit organization.

Expected to open early this year in east Hillsborough and treat about 500 patients in its first year, the clinic will be funded with about $8 million in seed money. Clinic leaders are expected to raise half the operating costs by the six-year mark.

Though concerns have been raised about whether this is an effort to privatize care for veterans, Marmar insisted that the plan is to augment, not replace, VA care.

"Some people in the private sector have declared war on the VA," Marmar said. "I am not one of those people. The majority of our referrals come from VA."

But the government's second-largest bureaucracy has limitations, he said.

"The VA has historically limited resources for families of veterans," Marmar said. "It is very difficult to treat spouses and children."

As the post-9/11 wars dragged on, it became increasingly apparent how important family and friends are in helping service members and veterans deal with the stress of deployment to a combat zone. U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, ultimately created the Preservation of the Force and Families program, to address these issues.

But the commando community only makes up a tiny percentage of the overall military and once the vast majority of troops leave the service, their support network of family and friends are often on their own when it comes to care, exacerbating potential behavioral issues.

As a VA mental health professional "responsible for tens of thousands of veterans throughout northern California," Marmar said he has "deep affection for VA healthcare."

But there are gaps, he said, that have been filled by the Cohen Veterans Network.

The network has come under criticism from Marvin Southard, chief executive of the clinic set up at the University of Southern California in 2016, who said it avoids treating the most challenging patients .

Still, Marmar said Tampa "is very fortunate to be joining the network."

Since 2016, the NYU Langone Cohen Veterans Network clinic has treated about 2,000 patients, 20 percent of whom are family and friends, said Marmar

"I have nothing but very positive things to say," Marmar said, "about Mr. Cohen and the Cohen Veterans Network."

• • •

The Pentagon announced no new deaths in ongoing operations last week.

There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 61 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the follow-up, Operation Freedom's Sentinel; 56 troop deaths and two civilian deaths in support of Operation Inherent Resolve; one troop death in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning, the fight against Islamic State in Libya; one troop death in support of Operation Joint Guardian, one death classified as other contingency operations in the global war on terrorism; one death in Operation Octave Shield and six deaths in ongoing operations in Africa where, if they have a title, officials will not divulge it.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or(813) 225-3112 . Follow @haltman

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A homeless Vietnam War veteran in Clearwater answers questions for a Pinellas County homeless survey. A shortage of affordable housing is considered a major cause of homelessness among vets in the Tampa Bay area. [Times files]
    Local agency leaders called on members of Congress to increase national affordable housing options as a solution to veteran homelessness
  2. A Coast Guard rescue swimmer drops from a helicopter during a training exercise off Honeymoon Island State Park in 2012. Jim Damaske
    The bizarre threat and fakes calls for help are being transmitted over marine radio. It sounds like the same man, the Coast Guard said.
  3. MacDill Air Force Base will observe a full-day, "resilience tactical pause'' Friday to address a growing number of suicides in the Air Force. Airmen will participate in team-building activities and small-group discussions on mental health. This is happening at military bases across the U.S.  [Times files].
    An estimated 78 airmen nationwide have taken their lives this year, prompting leaders to boost prevention efforts
  4. Dr. Dominick Gulli and Tammy Alsing recently launched Cope Well Counseling Associates at 415 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Brandon. ERIC VICIAN   | Special to the Times
    Dr. Dominick Gulli and Tammy Alsing recently opened their office at 415 Lithia Pinecrest Rd.
  5. Researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa participated in a newly released study that links post-traumatic stress disorder to ovarian cancer risk.
    A researcher from Moffitt Cancer Center participated in the study, which found that those with six or more symptoms of PTSD had double the risk of getting the disease.
  6. Capt. Joseph McGilley, commanding officer of Air Station Clearwater, center, gives an update on Wednesday about the air station's work in the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas. He stands inside a hangar on the Air Station Clearwater property in front of a Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, the same type being used in search and rescue efforts in the Bahamas. [JOSH SOLOMON   |   Times] JOSH SOLOMON  |  Josh Solomon, Tampa Bay Times
    Cargo planes, helicopters and people are all part of the effort.
  7. KC-135 Stratotankers will be evacuated from MacDill Air Force Case to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas ahead of Hurricane Dorian.  [Times]
    The aircraft are being sent to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas as a precaution with high winds projected during the storm
  8. A bulldozer dumps a load of trash into a burn pit 300 yards from the runway at Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield in this 2012 photo. The Pentagon later built a trash disposal plant at the busy military base but a number of crude burn pits, still spewing toxic fumes, remain in operation. [Mark Rankin] HOWARD ALTMAN  |  Mark Rankin
    A number of veterans have been locked out of VA medical care and disability benefits for illnesses that often are terminal.
  9. Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts, right, speaks while Clinic Director Karen Blanchette, left, Michael Sullivan, a Cohen Veterans Network Board Member, center, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, look on during a ceremony Monday marking the opening of the Florida Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Aspire Health Partners in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Times
    The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Aspire Health Partners will fill mental health service gaps for veterans and their family members.
  10. The Veterans Resurgence Program inside the Falkenburg Road Jail houses up to 60 veterans who can receive resources and counseling while serving time. Courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    Sheriff Chad Chronister’s Veterans Resurgence Program offers resources, counseling to incarcerated vets
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement