Veterans, returning military service members and providers now have a one-stop shop for treatment of behavioral health issues thanks to the Jason’s Box program, which is supported by Trinity Regional Health System in the Quad Cities. Jason’s Box, whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of military men and women, was founded in 2009 by Teri L. Johnson, the coordinator of community support and advancement at Trinity College Nursing and Health Sciences. Johnson’s son, Corporal Jason G. Pautsch, was killed in action on April 10, 2009, in Mosul, Iraq.
Phase one of the project has involved sending more than 1,000 custom care packages so far to military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to thank them for their service and boost morale. In phase two of the project, the Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health and Vera French Community Mental Health Center, along with other veteran and troop support groups in the Quad-Cities area, will assist troops with their transition from military to civilian life by identifying resources and treatment options for those experiencing the harmful effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other behavioral health issues.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans, nearly 25 percent of veterans report having had difficulty readjusting to civilian life. That figure increases to 44 percent among those who served in the ten years since Sept. 11, 2001. In addition the Veteran Administration’s Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America notes that 38 per 100,000 of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans using VA health care committed suicide during latest data available. Compare that to 11.5 deaths per 100,000 for the general public.
“Military service is difficult, demanding and dangerous. But returning to civilian life also poses challenges for the men and women who have served in the armed forces,” said Dr. David Deopere, President of the Robert Young Center. “Many try to deal with PTSD on their own or don’t recognize that the symptoms they have are related to their service. Jason’s Box recognizes that there is a need to help returning troops with the emotional trauma they faced during deployment and to also identify those who could benefit from behavioral health services.”
The Jason’s Box Website (www.jasonsbox.com) now includes a “Behavioral Health” tab with lists of local medical and behavioral health providers as well as contact information for social support services and programs within the community. In addition, the Website home page now includes quick links to national resources like the Department of Veterans Affairs’ veterans crisis line, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and information about a local veterans support group.
The organization also is focused on improving provider education by including information about understanding and treating post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD screening and referral tools as well as PTSD training opportunities. There is also a pilot project in which providers will both screen their patients for PTSD and complete training modules. Once completed, providers will be eligible for placement on the Jason’s Box Website under behavioral health resources.
“The training modules and events provide a timely and cost-effective opportunity for area professionals to come together to be educated in best clinical practices and develop a comprehensive provider network to treat individuals and families experiencing PTSD right here in our community,” said Chris McCormick-Pries, advanced registered nurse practitioner and clinical director of the Vera French Community Mental Health Center. “Additionally, we are able to build in the naturally occurring supports so important to everyone experiencing crisis.”