Johnstown legion post honored for donation to PTSD project

JOHNSTOWN – The Research & Recognition Project recently acknowledged Johnstown American Legion Post No. 472 for its contribution to a treatment project intended to help veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Legion members – including Robert Salluzzo, chairman of the board for the Corning-based research project – met at the Raindancer Restaurant in Perth on Thursday, where they met with Dr. Frank Bourke.

Bourke is a clinical psychologist and the project’s executive director.

Bourke said the non-profit research project wouldn’t have moved forward if it had not been for the legion, which contributed more than $12,000.

“We wouldn’t be here without you,” he said. “My reason for coming here tonight was to say thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I really do appreciate how you stepped up and helped with this project.”

Legion Commander John Schwartz and Adjutant Kevin Quinn accepted Bourke’s thanks at the dinner.

The project consists of 700 mental health providers, and recently received a $300,000 grant from New York state to conduct a pilot study. The study will include the research and treatment of 30 military veterans who have PTSD. The study will take place in a treatment facility in Orange County within the next few months.

Bourke said the legion’s contribution was critical to the research before the project received the state grant.

“I put together a protocol for PTSD and we were basically working out of our pockets to do the research. We were essentially broke,” he said. “[The legion] listened to us, reached into your own pockets and gave us $12,000. We’re extremely thankful and we wouldn’t be on the road to success if it weren’t for you.”

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.

Bourke said he has treated many veterans with severe PTSD. The treatment can reverse PTSD in under five hours, he said, and is inexpensive compared to current treatments.

Bourke said he uses Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories to treat people with PTSD. Bourke said he alters a PTSD victim’s memory by changing the pictures stored in the victim’s brain from the traumatic event.

“They don’t lose the memory; they just don’t react like they once did to it,” he said.

Salluzzo said once the research is proven to be a legitimate form of treatment, the next step will be to create clinics.