(CHICAGO) — Rush University Medical Center is opening a new center for veterans and their families called the Road Home Program. The center has been created to support service members and their families who were deployed to recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and have returned to civilian life in the greater Chicago region with combat-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The new center offers a comprehensive program of diagnostic, treatment and referral services at Rush and via a network of collaborating community agencies. The ultimate goal is to ensure that veterans and their loved ones connect with the care, services, and resources that will ease or overcome the complex and far-reaching effects of their military service experience.
Funding to establish the center came from a number of philanthropic organizations including the Welcome Back Veterans, an initiative of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Major League Baseball, which donated $1 million for the new center at Rush and has helped establish centers of excellence at seven other academic medical centers around the country. Other contributing donors include the Crown Family, Bank of America, Michael Reese Health Trust, State Farm Insurance Companies, the Field Foundation of Illinois and MillerCoors.
“You would think that coming home would be the easy part, but transitioning from military to civilian life is often a challenge,” said Dr. Mark Pollack, medical director of the Road Home Program and chairman of the department of psychiatry at Rush. “We want to ensure that Illinois veterans with a mental health condition or TBI and their families can connect with care and resources they need to overcome the far-reaching effects of these challenges and take control of their health and family life.”
Illinois is home to about 80,000-100,000 veterans and one-third of those veterans (20,000 to 30,000) suffer from invisible wounds such as PTSD and TBI.
The program provides a hub for services offered through more than two dozen education, government and social service partners, including the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Illinois Joining Forces, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Health & Disability Advocates, ChildServ, Catholic Charities, John Marshall Law School and many others.
Combat-related conditions such as PTSD and TBI are prevalent among a projected one-third of returning veterans.
PTSD is a series of symptoms that do not go away after a traumatic experience. Some of the most common symptoms include avoiding activities one used to enjoy, avoiding situations that are reminiscent of an attack or other trauma, experiencing feelings of guilt or shame and re-living the event through bad memories, flashbacks or nightmares.
TBI is caused by an external force, such as a blast, motor vehicle accident or gunshot wound. No two brain injuries are the same — and TBI affects each person differently. It can affect an individual’s thoughts and behaviors as well as their ability to perform a variety of physical tasks.
Rush has assembled a leadership team with nationally recognized expertise in the treatment of traumatic stress related disorder.
The Road Home Program will administer:
- Peer-to-peer outreach efforts to connect veterans to job-training programs and community socialization sites.
- A veterans’ mental health clinic, staffed by psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers.
- A TBI program to provide consultations and treatment services.
- Child and family counseling services, which will offer consulting, counseling and parenting support.
“This program will capitalized upon Rush’s unique strengths to meet the needs of Chicago-area veterans and their loved ones,” said Pollack.
“Twenty-six percent of post 9/11 veterans have been deployed more than once, leaving them more vulnerable to the invisible wounds of war such as TBI and PTSD,” said Anna LauBach Program Director at the McCormick Foundation. “We are proud to support Rush University Medical Center and their efforts to provide veterans and their families with much need support and treatment.”
Rush is contacting and working with government agencies and the business community to build a broad base of philanthropic support that will help sustain the services required to assist returning service members as they transition back into the family and workplace.
Longer range goals include veteran support for workforce development and education as well a consultation to other hospitals in the region, and around the nation that want to use the Rush model to establish similar veterans’ centers.