Advertisement
  1. Military

Veterans have a new ally to help treat PTSD: Florida's colleges and universities

Florida’s universities and colleges will be able to provide alternative therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries for veterans through a federal contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed the bill allowing the partnership while appearing at the University of South Florida. [AMANDA ZHOU | Times]
Published Jun. 26

TAMPA — When Army Staff Sgt. Brian Anderson returned home after tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, he tried a variety of therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder.

One treatment came in the form of a shaggy golden retriever named Hero.

"He helped me through a lot of tough times coming home," Anderson said.

The 37-year-old Green Beret said he lost five friends in combat over a span of six months.

He wasn't ready to make the transition back to civilian life when he returned for good following his 2011 deployment.

After Anderson received the service dog, Hero followed him everywhere for three years.

Hero is no ordinary dog. As a service animal, Hero was trained to act as a physical barrier between Anderson and people in crowded situations.

If someone comes up behind Anderson, Hero gives him a nudge to let him know, so that Anderson doesn't feel like he's about to be attacked.

Service dogs like Hero are one example of the alternative therapies for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries that Florida's universities and colleges will be able to provide through a federal contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed the bill allowing the partnership while appearing at the University of South Florida.

It was passed unanimously by the Florida House and Senate, and includes other alternative treatments such as equine therapy, music therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and accelerated resolution therapy, a form of psychotherapy.

Anderson and several legislators attended the signing.

The therapies are funded through a separate health care appropriation of $200,000 awarded to USF, said state Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Destin, who helped spearhead the bill.

Offering alternative therapies marks a departure from using drugs as a sole treatment for PTSD, DeSantis said.

The bill also opens the door to research the effectiveness of some of those treatments, said USF health professor Kevin Kip, who studies alternative therapies.

In recent years, dozens of non-profits have popped up around the country offering everything from acupuncture to yoga to martial arts for veterans.

However, there has been little standardized evaluation of how effective those therapies are, he said.

"It's about as fragmented as you could possibly make it," Kip said.

Afterward the signing, the blue permanent pens used to sign the bill into law were distributed among the politicians.

Anderson gave his pen to Hero, who held it in his mouth.

Contact Amanda Zhou at azhou@tampabay.com. Follow @amondozhou.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater’s new commander, Capt. Joseph T. McGilley, left, watches as Clearwater Mayor George N. Cretekos reads a proclamation recognizing the U.S. Coast Guard’s contribution to the city at a recent  City Council meeting. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Jose Perez
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement