STRONG STAR: Working to alleviate PTSD in Veterans

PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, affects one out of 11 adults. Among military veterans, 11-20% are diagnosed with the disorder in a given year. PTSD oftentimes carries a stigma, making it difficult for veterans and others to reach out and seek professional help.

STRONG STAR, which was founded in 2006 at UT Health San Antonio, is an acronym that stands for “South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma And Resilience.”

Directed by Alan L. Peterson, Ph.D., ABPP, the program is a federally funded multi-institutional research group that is working to evaluate the most effective early interventions possible for the detection, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of combat-related PTSD and related conditions in active-duty military personnel and recently discharged veterans.

Dr. Peterson said the program was created “because of an emerging national public health crisis related to the lack of evidence-based treatments for combat-related PTSD for U.S. military personnel returning from deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Since its original funding, the STRONG STAR Consortium has added a host of affiliated projects to its research repertoire, each with separate funding from a variety of federal and private sources. Its 65+ completed or ongoing projects include 40 of the largest psychological health clinical trials in Defense Department history.

Still, Dr. Peterson said that STRONG STAR has only begun the fight against PTSD. “We hope to continue to improve treatment outcomes with additional clinical trials so that the majority of service members and veterans with combat-related PTSD can be treated into remission,” he said.

Moving forward, STRONG STAR plans to develop evidence-based interventions to enhance resiliency in military personnel and to prevent the onset of PTSD with early interventions delivered within the first month of trauma exposure.

STRONG STAR also plans to venture out into non-military-related PTSD. Dr. Peterson said he sees a need among first responders, who he calls an “underserved and understudied population.” And there is currently a research project undergoing peer review that supports the treatment of PTSD in firefighters across Texas.

STRONG STAR has developed a national reputation of excellence in research, clinical treatment and education.

Its trials have delivered clinical care to 3,500 service members and veterans while collecting data that now form the nation’s largest PTSD research repository. Findings, published in the group’s 150 scientific manuscripts and shared at over 400 conference presentations, are influencing VA and DoD policy as they improve remission rates.

Its trials have delivered clinical care to 3,500 service members and veterans while collecting data that now form the nation’s largest PTSD research repository. Findings, published in the group’s 150 scientific manuscripts and shared at over 400 conference presentations, are influencing VA and DoD policy as they improve remission rates.

Simultaneously, STRONG STAR has trained over 50 doctoral students, interns, and postdoctoral fellows, and the STRONG STAR Training Initiative is training clinicians nationwide on the delivery of evidence-based treatments for combat-PTSD and related conditions.

For more information, visit the STRONG STAR website.

 



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