Legion supporting efforts to treat disorder

JOHNSTOWN – Johnstown American Legion Post No. 472 wants to help veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The post made a $12,000 contribution to the Research & Recognition Project, which will officially thank the post at a dinner at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Raindancer Restaurant in Perth.

Legion member Robert Salluzzo, also a member of the board of directors of the Corning-based research project, said the project consists of 700 mental health providers. The project received a $300,000 state grant to conduct a pilot study on a treatment protocol for PTSD.

Dr. Frank Bourke, a clinical psychologist and the project’s executive director, is scheduled to speak at Thursday’s dinner.

He is an expert on PTSD and will explain his group’s efforts to deal with the disorder.

Bourke said his research couldn’t continue without help from veteran groups like the Johnstown legion.

“We’re trying to say thank you to a very small group who stepped up,” he said.

According to the website for the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or years.

Getting treatment as soon as possible after PTSD symptoms develop may prevent a long-term disorder, the website says.

Salluzzo, who has served as an Army field artillery officer, and Johnstown American Legion Cmdr. John Schwartz said they know of no one locally suffering from PTSD, but that hasn’t stopped the post from helping efforts to treat the disorder.

“It’s a very important thing,” Schwartz said. “I want people to be able to function again.”

The Research and Recognition Project, founded in 2008, is an independent not-for-profit corporation.

Bourke says clinical results of the project’s

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cognitive therapy-style treatment are showing the treatment can remove the nightmare, flashback and related emotional symptoms of PTSD in less than five hours.

“They’ve seen the benefits of treatment,” Salluzzo said of those involved with the Research & Recognition Project.

Bourke said the state grant was based, in large part, on support from professionals at five universities who have observed or used the treatment protocol with veterans. If the research results substantiate the clinical observations, the protocol could save the government more than $5 billion in the next 10 years, based on a recent Rand Report.

He said the treatment could reverse the accrual of thousands of disabled veterans over the next 20 years and could provide substantial relief to the severely burdened U.S. Veterans Administration system.

Professionals at the Research and Recognition Project caution on the project website that the so-called RTM Protocol has no effect on the alcohol, drug, anxiety, depression, family and vocational problems that accrue in veterans coping with PTSD for extended periods.

Given the size and scope of this nationally recognized problem, the group is hoping to complete the studies necessary to bring the protocol into widespread practice on an accelerated schedule with the help of private foundations and veterans organizations.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, June is PTSD Awareness Month. The federal government says there are more than 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and at least 20 percent of them have PTSD or depression. A?total of 50 percent is not seeking treatment, the government says.

Bourke said the Research & Recognition Project is able to sustain itself through grant money for research and through donations such as that from the Johnstown American Legion.

Schwartz said he feels if veterans don’t do things themselves to get things done, such as the Research & Recognition Project, it doesn’t get done for veterans.

“If we help a few people, it’s better than not helping anyone,” Schwartz said.

Michael Anich can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.