Supporting Service Members from Pre-TBI to Post-TBI

(from July 2022 Intrepid Voices eNewsletter)

The Intrepid Network’s Continuum of Caring, Healing and Thriving is a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach to address the full continuum of traumatic brain injury (TBI), behavior health, and brain health. To ensure a medical ready force, we must start our engagement prior to a service member having their first event (pre-TBI). 

“We know the service members at highest risk for TBI and associated conditions and recognize the importance of preparing them for the careers they go into,” said CAPT Carlos Williams, director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE). During this pre-TBI phase, we must use foundational tools such as education, integrative health, and other best practices to build resilience and when possible prevent the event or complications altogether, said CAPT Williams. 

As part of the Continuum, the goal is to partner with the operational community and others in the TBI clinical, research, and academic space to educate service members and their families about TBI, its effect on brain function, and activities that can help restore the brain immediately after a TBI, and even after having persistent or worsening symptoms for many years. This aligns with the five lines of effort for the Warfighter Brain Health Initiative that supports prevention and establishes resilience in the pre-TBI state, said Dr. Thomas DeGraba, chief innovations officer for the NICoE. 

The five lines of effort are: 

  • Optimize cognitive and physical performance
  • Identify, monitor, and mitigate brain exposures
  • Prevent, recognize, and minimize the effect of TBI 
  • Reduce or eliminate long-term/late effects 
  • Advance warfighter brain health science 

Elements of the integrative health services that are a part of the Intrepid Network’s patient-centric interdisciplinary care model should be taught to service members during training. These include yoga, meditation, breath work, art therapy, and more. Behavioral health techniques help process fragmented trauma memories and are practices that can be used life-long to address future trauma and build resiliency, said Dr. DeGraba. 

“We know this works,” said CAPT Williams. “Our model of care, which helps people with TBI who have not responded to any other treatment, can be taught to service members who have never stepped through our doors.” For patients inside the Intrepid Network, the interdisciplinary program provides an opportunity to engage in skills-based training and education to enhance their trajectory of recovery. 

After the event and receiving treatment, the Continuum will help to facilitate recovery and the transition to full duty or civilian life through a network of partnerships across the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, non-governmental military and veterans support organizations, academia, industry, and the TBI community. 

These partners can provide top quality follow-up care, case management, and peer support groups to assist in healing and thriving. “Any organization that offers resources to our beneficiaries, we hope to identify them and help our members take advantage of those resources. Simply put, the Continuum ensures that we prepare for, treat when needed, and continue to support lifelong recovery so that no one is left behind,” said CAPT Williams.

Posted on February 13 2023 in Blog

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