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"Home Base" Program for Veterans

Reprinted from the May 2017 issue of South Shore Senior News

Boston’s Home Team pitches in to help

In recent years, the charitable arm of the Olde Towne Team, The Red Sox Foundation, has teamed with Massachusetts General Hospital to establish a program called “Home Base”.  The goal and objective of the Home Base Program is to: 1) raise awareness of the issues surrounding combat related stress; and 2) provide medical treatment and expertise to those service members affected by post traumatic combat stress or traumatic brain injury.
One in three service men and women returning from military service has been diagnosed, and documented, with combat or deployment-related stress (also known as Post Traumatic Stress or PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  These are the “invisible wounds of war” which are affecting many military personnel who return from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Home Base Program provides clinical care and support services to (not only) service members and veterans, but also to family members throughout New England.  Home Base offers access to a multidisciplinary clinical staff of psychiatrists, psychologists, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, nurses, social workers and other clinicians from Mass General Hospital.  These professionals understand the military culture, and are experienced in caring for service members, veterans and families. There is a Home Base Veteran Outreach Team, composed of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, who are part of the clinical team. Home Base also works with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, Department of Defense Military Health System and other providers to offer individualized care for veterans and families and to develop a tailored treatment plan to address the needs of each patient.  Home Base clinicians are based at Massachusetts General Hospital, and are affiliated with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Eliminating Barriers to Care
Home Base is dedicated to serving both veterans and families throughout New England — recognizing that when one family member serves, the entire family serves. The United States military has jumped into numerous international conflicts over the past ten years.  Many of our military personnel have engaged in multiple and repeated deployments overseas.  This exposure to conflict has affected military veterans and families alike. Home Base offers clinical and counseling services in individual settings to veterans and their spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, significant others and loved ones in balancing their lives throughout the deployment cycle.
Military discharge “status” does not affect an individual’s access to care services and counselling. Home Base serves all veterans — regardless of their time of service or discharge status.  All branches of military service are also included (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, National Guard and Reservist). Currently, the majority of veteran cases are related to personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.  However, no veteran is turned away.
Payment is not a barrier to care services. Home Base accepts TriCare and other private and public insurance including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts Health Plan, and MassHealth. By law, Home Base is required to bill health insurance.  But if a veteran or family member has no insurance or a gap in insurance coverage, they will never receive a bill from Home Base.
Home Base routinely works with the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to make certain that veterans and families receive the care they need in a timely manner, and in the correct and most convenient setting. Also involved are long-standing veteran-serving organizations in Massachusetts including the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services and its SAVE Team, the Massachusetts National Guard, and student veteran organizations at colleges and universities throughout New England.
Cutting Edge Therapy Treatments
Avoidance is a core symptom of post-traumatic stress, and as a result, some veterans may not recall painful or emotional memories. Home Base offers state of the art professional treatments which utilize “virtual reality” therapy.  Virtual Reality Exposure (VRE) therapy is a treatment option for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at the Home Base outpatient clinic in Boston. This tool is available for veterans receiving “prolonged exposure” therapy, a well established evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress.
Virtual reality therapy works by helping the veteran call forth traumatic memories, a critical component of dealing with prolonged exposure to the environment of war. The clinician programs the virtual environment (including sights, sounds, and smells) to resemble the context in which the trauma occurred in order to enhance memory of traumatic events in the course of treatment.  In an ongoing effort to remove cognitive barriers for veterans, Home Base clinicians will integrate virtual reality exposure therapy directly into individualized care options for veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.  There is a designated virtual therapy room at the outpatient clinic for veteran patients and their doctor. Patients are fitted with a head-mounted display (including view screen and headset), which exposes the veteran to a 3D digital world experience capable of mimicking vehicle rumble sounds, exposure to explosions, the smell of burning trash and explosives, a cityscape with narrow streets and alleys, and the inside of a Humvee. The veteran may also carry a plastic, life-like military rifle that is connected to the computer.
Virtual reality therapy is safe.  The clinician is always present for the full session, guiding the veteran through different scenarios tailored to his or her personal trauma. The clinician works with the veteran throughout the treatment, noting sensitivity to the veteran’s reactions.  Therapy is then adjusted to reduce or increase its intensity in a therapeutic manner.
Not all veterans treated will receive virtual reality therapy. Home Base clinicians decide who is appropriate based on careful assessment and patient preference.
Individualized Assessment
There is no one treatment that fits all.  Home Base counselors and clinicians will develop an individual plan based on treatment options and needs.  The objective, in each and every case, is to improve the quality of life.  The goal is to assist military personnel in overcoming the effects of deployment, or combat–related stress.  This may take time for many individuals.  But the effort is geared to building a plan which enable military personnel to successfully return to family life, job, school, and community.
The Home Base Program gives veterans access to the most advanced care currently available.  To schedule an appointment at the Home Base Clinic, please pick-up the phone and call: 617-724-5202

John D. Miller

About the Author
John D. Miller is the owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: jdmiller@homecarepartners.biz ; or online at: www.homecarepartnersma.com