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Courage needed to pass bill to aid veterans

My Opinion
James Bauerle, Guest Writer

The movie ‘Concussion’ shows the struggles the medical world endures to get sound medicine advanced to help millions of people, all because of greed.
A medical breakthrough exists today to help those with concussions, traumatic brain injuries and even post traumatic stress, yet most of the medical world shuns this very effective and safe treatment.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is being ignored and, in some areas, actively discredited as a healing modality for concussions and brain injury.
Sports head injuries that cause lasting cognitive and behavioral damage, and veterans with TBI-PTSI from years at war are trying to survive an epidemic of suffering and suicide driven by untreated and often undiagnosed head injury. Meanwhile, the medical establishment continues to drag its feet when it comes to healing injured brains with HBOT. Instead, treatment of symptoms with drugs, counseling and cognitive therapy provide little, if any, cure for the underlying physiological and neurological damage.
The suicide epidemic among veterans continues with 22 veterans successful and 44 more trying daily. Most of these veterans suffered TBI and PTSI. Our military elite special operators commit suicide at twice the average. Young women veterans are at 12 times the risk of suicide as their peers.
TBI is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. Nationally, an estimated 2.5 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations or deaths were associated with TBI. Tens of thousands of head-injured veterans, athletes and members of the general public visit emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, and the prescription rendered is bed rest and ‘watchful waiting.’ They are told they will probably get better in time. They are almost never told that active intervention and treatment for concussion is available all over the nation.
Dr. George Mychaskiw II, former editor-in-chief, The Journal of Hyperbaric Medicine, the most prestigious journal on Hyperbaric Medicine in the world, says: ‘Hyperbaric oxygen is a safe, easily used treatment that, in many cases, has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the symptoms of patients with [TBI]. Every day we are … gathering more data validating its efficacy …. I feel , as do many of my colleagues, that there is sufficient clinical and research evidence to justify the use of [HBOT] as a standard-of-care treatment for [TBI] that should be reimbursed by CMS and Tricare …. I have no doubt that, over the next several years, [HBOT] will be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be one of the most effective treatments for [TBI] …. There is a preponderance of evidence now to justify the use and funding for the treatment …. ‘
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (breathing 100 percent oxygen at increased atmospheric pressures) has a long history of safety and efficacy in healing a wide range of injuries, including tissue and wound healing and neurological repair. In its own clinical trials, the U.S. Army concluded, ‘[HBOT] offered statistical and in some measures clinically significant improvement over local routine TBI care.’ The Veterans Administration and Department of Defense deny access to HBOT for veterans and active duty military because the treatment is not FDA approved yet, thus considered ‘off-label.’ They say this even though they prescribe psychoactive drugs and other drugs in record volumes to veterans and service members that are ‘off-label’ as used. Many of these drugs carry warnings about ‘suicidal ideation.’
More than 1,400 veterans, active duty service members, professional athletes and civilians have experienced significant improvements in brain function, cognitive abilities and quality of life following HBOT treatment. HBOT reduces or eliminates thoughts of suicide. The Israeli Defense Force has made HBOT its standard of care. Much more information is available at is a collaboration among dozens of civilian medical practices and hospital-based HBOT clinics nationwide, dedicated to helping heal veterans who have suffered brain injury or PTSD. More than 340 veterans, athletes and civilians have been successfully treated in the past three years; dramatic, life-altering success in nearly every patient. Many have returned to active military duty, including dozens of Special Operations Warriors who had been slated for medical separation.
Rep. Denny Zent from Lake James, Ind., will be introducing legislation in this upcoming General Assembly to establish a statewide program for Hoosier veterans so these men and women can be helped and their families can regain their lost loved ones.
I hope our state legislative leaders have the courage to pass this bill and help Indiana truly be a ‘state that works’ for all, including our Hoosier Heroes, our veterans.
James Bauerle resides in Carmel.