A top Defense Department health official told a Pentagon task force Jan. 15 that determining the impact of mental health programs across the military will be a key project this year for the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.
DCoE’s director, Navy Capt. Paul S. Hammer, listed accomplishments over the past year as well as areas where improvement is needed, including “streamlining functions that effectively accomplish the stated DCoE mission and vision.”
“Our job is to make the system better so that our service members, their families and veterans get better care,” he told the Recovering Warrior Task Force, whose mission is to provide DOD with advice on managing care for post-traumatic stress disorder and TBI.
DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department are “collaborating to shape policies and programs with a long term impact on returning warriors, during military service and after transition to civilian life,” he added. He called for increased screening and referral of service members believed to be experiencing PTSD, and for improved access to quality care for those being treated.
In addition, he called on DOD as well as the services to adopt strategies to better recognize PTSD among returning warriors and to step up efforts to ensure those who need treatment stick with it.
Hammer told the task force members his organization benefits efforts throughout the Defense Department to help those suffering from PTSD and PTI. “Why should DOD give us money to exist?” he asked. “We believe that by serving as the principal integrator and authority on psychological health and traumatic brain injury knowledge and standards for DOD, we are uniquely positioned to accelerate improvement and care.”
Hammer noted that a transition is under way as support responsibility for DCoE shifts from DOD’s TRICARE Management Activity to the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command under a Defense Department directive.
“What we need is leadership to really clarify expectations on what they want for us in terms of our roles and functions,” he said. “I think the challenge or difficulty is ensuring that we are clear on what our role is and what the relationship is with the services.”
The Defense Centers for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury was established in 2008 to develop excellence in prevention, outreach and care for service members with psychological health conditions including TBI. It oversees three centers: the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, the Deployment Health Clinical Center and the National Center for Telehealth and Technology.