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U receives $3.1 million grant from Boeing allowing the National Center for Veteran Studies to accept 200 military members or veterans into its R&R program over the next three years.

By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University Communications

An innovative program at the University of Utah proven to be effective in treating military service members and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts has received a significant grant from the Boeing Company that will allow its expansion.

Craig J. Bryan

With the $3.1 million grant, the National Center for Veterans Studies — in collaboration with the National Ability Center in Park City — will be able to accept 200 military service members or veterans and their family members into its R&R program over the next three years.

“We plan to focus this work in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, which have the highest number of veteran suicides based on population,” said Craig J. Bryan, the center’s executive director and a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the U.

The grant also will allow the center to offer Crisis Response Planning workshops for 1,000 mental health professionals and community members in cities across the country, greatly expanding familiarity with intervention techniques proven to reduce suicide attempts among military personnel. These trainings will focus on the same Intermountain states noted above as well as the following cities: Chicago, Seattle/Tacoma, Denver/CO Springs, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Killeen/Temple/Fort Hood, Norfolk and Tampa.

The center, located within the College for Social and Behavioral Science at the U, leads the nation in suicide prevention and PTSD research and treatment of military service members and veterans.

“The national average of 20 veteran suicides each day is tragic,” Bryan said. “Suicide has serious rippling effects on family, friends and communities and this impact is even rougher in close knit communities such as the military where one suicide attempt has been shown to increase risk for attempts among may other service members and veterans.”

The center’s pioneering R&R program involves an intensive two-week treatment that combines individual cognitive processing therapy and recreational activities for service members and veterans with PTSD. More than 70 percent of veterans who complete the program report significant reductions in PTSD symptoms and more than half can no longer be diagnosed with PTSD. Over half of veterans who begin the program with suicidal thoughts report complete remission of these thoughts when reassessed six months later.

The Crisis Response Planning techniques developed by the center have been shown to reduce suicidal behavior by up to 76 percent among high-risk military personnel as compared to typical mental health treatment methods.

The Boeing Company announced on May 9 it was making $54 million in grants and philanthropic sponsorships to nonprofits in the U.S. and around the globe.

“This grant is part of The Boeing Company’s pledge to invest in local communities following the enactment of the tax reform legislation,” said Chris Bray, Boeing Utah Community Investor. “The funding will facilitate faster implementation of suicide prevention methods and increase the availability of mental health treatment to military personnel, veterans and their families in Utah and across the nation.”