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Mental Health Caucus Tours Bethesda Naval Hospital Traumatic Brain Injury Unit

May 24, 2011
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, toured the National Naval Medical Center’s Traumatic Brain Injury Unit with a group of staffers from several congressional offices to learn from doctors and service members about new forms of brain injuries affecting a growing number of our soldiers and veterans.

On the tour were staffers representing the offices of Reps. Lois Capps, Rush Holt, Dan Lipinski, Lucille Roybal-Allard, and Pete Stark.

“Here we can see what we only hear about, and begin to understand what these men and women are going through,” Napolitano said. “Traumatic brain injuries caused by head wounds and explosions have severe consequences for service members and their families. Many of our returning heroes lose their homes and livelihoods, which is deplorable, because they put their lives on the line for us. This is a critical issue in our own backyard, and we need to give our veterans every opportunity to lead full lives.”

Since 2000, approximately 200,000 members of the armed forces have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI). The number of cases of TBI has grown each year because of roadside bombs used in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 30,703 service members diagnosed in 2010.

“These are the invisible wounds of war,” said Captain John Ralph, Navy Psychologist and Director of Mental Health at the National Naval Medical Center. “The effects are very prevalent, much more so than in the past.”

The tour included the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a new facility at the National Naval Medical Center, where medical professionals can use the latest therapies to treat TBI and psychological health issues for service members and their families. Facilities include the latest brain imaging technology and virtual reality equipment for re-enactment therapy.

“We provide very high quality care here,” said Rear Admiral Matthew Nathan, Commander of the National Naval Medical Center. “The question is, how can we continue that care once the service member leaves this cocoon and returns home?”

The Mental Health Caucus organized the trip as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. This Thursday, May 26, in room 2168 of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 A.M., the Caucus will be hosting a Mental Health First Aid workshop, to educate staffers on mental health issues and the importance of services for those who are mentally ill.

National Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK