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UM News
May 22, 2013

MISSOULA – The Western Montana Area Health Education Center at the University of Montana and the North Central Montana AHEC will host a one-day professional continuing education program around veterans’ mental health on Friday, June 7, in Helena.

The conference, “Citizen Soldier: The Invisible Wounds of War,” will provide practical information about military culture and the needs and concerns of service members, veterans and military families. Topics covered include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and the impact on individuals and their families. 

It is designed for Montana health care professionals who want to expand their perspective and gain a better understanding of how to connect with and help veterans and their families.

The event will take place at St. Peter’s Hospital, located at 2475 Broadway St., and also will be broadcast to distance sites around the state. This will be the fourth offering of the “Citizen Soldier” conference. For more details on the specific sites, go to the registration website at http://www.regonline.com/CitizenSoldier2013.

Registration costs $100 until May 27 and then it will increase to $125. This cost includes continuing education credits for a wide variety of health care disciplines and lunch if attending in Helena. Space is limited at all sites.

Dr. Michael Marks, the lead psychologist at the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Healthcare System in Tucson, Ariz., will be the principal conference speaker. Marks directs the system’s post-traumatic stress disorder outpatient clinic and developed the Supportive Education for Returning Veterans program at the University of Arizona.

Other speakers include retired Brig. Gen. Hal Stearns; Staff Sgt. Dustin Monroe, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom; Christian Belcourt, who served active duty in the U.S. Army from 1988 to1992 and in the Army Reserves until 2001; and Christine Gregory, director of the VA Montana Health Care System.

Download a conference brochure and register at www.regonline.com/CitizenSoldier2013. For more information call Anna Buckner, WMT-AHEC program coordinator for continuing education, at 406-243-5575 or email anna.buckner@mso.umt.edu. The media is invited to attend conference sessions.

For the first time in history, 90 percent of soldiers survive their injuries. However, as of September 2009, mental health problems were the second-most common health problem among the soldiers who have returned home from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The war in Iraq remains very personal,” the 2011 report from the Office of the Surgeon General Mental Health Advisory Team for Operation Enduring Freedom stated. “More than 75 percent of soldiers and Marines surveyed reported being in situations where they could be seriously injured or killed; 62-66 percent knew someone seriously injured or killed; and more than one-third described an event that caused them intense fear, helplessness or horror.” 

“While VA facilities do have specialists trained in post-traumatic stress disorder, only 41-45 percent of the more than 1 million returning OEF/OIF veterans who are eligible for VA services have sought care from the VA,” said Larry White, WMT-AHEC director. “This means that the remaining veterans constitute a silent majority – the civilian health care workforce must come together around this issue. There should be no wrong door to which veterans and their families can come to for help.”

The AHEC program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health-professions workforce committed to underserved populations. The program taps the resources of academic medicine to address local community health needs.

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Contact: Anna Buckner, program coordinator, Western Montana Area Health Education Center at UM, 406-243-5575, anna.buckner@mso.umt.edu.