UT Health going national to train providers in PTSD therapies

By Joel Williams

UT Health San Antonio is going national in 2018 with an initiative aimed at training military- and veteran-serving community mental health providers  in evidence-based treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ultimately, the goal is to increase access to high-quality care for the growing number of combat veterans affected by PTSD since Sept. 11, 2001.

Launched earlier this year, the STRONG STAR Training Initiative has provided workshops and established learning communities in seven Texas cities: San Antonio, Denton, Corpus Christi, Waco, San Marcos, Houston, and Austin.

National sites in 2018 will include New York City; Los Angeles; Tacoma, Washington; Chicago; Orlando, Florida; and Denver, Colorado.

The STRONG STAR Training Initiative helps address the unmet need for treating PTSD, a major condition affecting the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of post-9/11 service members and veterans. Military and VA mental health providers face heavy workloads, which can create patient backlogs, and veterans in rural areas can have added difficulty accessing care. By training more community providers in the leading PTSD therapies, the STRONG STAR Training Initiative aims to help more of our nation’s war-fighters benefit from local access to effective treatments that will help them maintain or resume healthy, productive lives. An added benefit is that community providers also can use these same treatments to help civilians affected by PTSD.

Providers enrolled in the initiative receive organizational consultation, basic and advanced training in Prolonged Exposure or Cognitive Processing Therapy, ongoing expert consultation for sustaining the program, and additional education to increase their understanding of military culture. They may also earn continuing education credits.

Katy Dondanville, Psy.D., ABPP, and Brooke Fina, LCSW, BCD, associate professors of psychiatry in the School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, direct the STRONG STAR Training Initiative, with Dr. Dondanville serving as program director and Fina as training director. They share the expertise and insight that they have gained from involvement in the STRONG STAR Consortium’s seminal research studies on PTSD and related conditions in active-duty military personnel and post-9/11 veterans.

STRONG STAR, based at UT Health San Antonio, is a federally funded network of national experts seeking the best ways to treat behavioral health problems of post-9/11 service members and veterans.

In Texas, the Training Initiative was made possible by a grant from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, via its Texas Veterans + Family Alliance Grant Program. The grant funds expert training for 200 veteran-serving mental health providers across the state in the two evidence-based PTSD therapies.  Each provider selected for training will commit to treating at least five veterans, meaning at least 1,000 veterans in Texas will benefit.

An additional grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation supports the Texas program and makes possible the STRONG STAR Training Initiative’s national expansion. The national effort in 2018 will provide training for 200 mental health providers. Each provider will commit to treat at least five veterans, benefiting at least 1,000 veterans.

To learn more about the STRONG STAR Training Initiative and inquire about participation, visit www.STRONGSTARtraining.org

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