Verified on December 2011 by Department of Veterans Affairs
This VA study is providing valuable information to support PTSD Service Dogs.
The VA is conducting a 3 year clinical trial study on the effects of
service dogs relieving PTSD symptoms. Several service dog
organizations are participating in this study. They adopt dogs from
shelters and train them as service animals for Veterans suffering PTSD.
Once the person-dog match is made, a base line study is conducted which
includes medically monitering.
The base line study is
followed quarterly to determine if medical stats change after the
Veteran is working with the Service Dog. For example, once blood
pressure is determined in the initial base line, does the blood pressure
go down and stay down in quarterly reviews.
It is the hope of the
organizations participating in the study that the evidence will support
that service dogs do help Veterans heal and that the VA will start to
provide the service dogs to Veterans diagnoised with PTSD.
Study is in year 1 of the 3 year study.
Purpose The purpose of this study is to evaluate use of service dogs
for individuals who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). Objectives include: (1) assess the impact service dogs
have on the mental health and quality of life of Veterans; (2) to
provide recommendations to the VA to serve as guidance in providing
service dogs to veterans; (3) To determine cost associated with total
health care utilization and mental health care utilization among
veterans with PTSD; and (4) Explore meanings and perceptions of roles
that service dogs fill in the lives of the veterans and their
The NIMH/U.S.Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Soldiers (Army STARRS) project enrolled over 25,000 soldiers in the past year to develop a
risk calculator for PTSD, depression, and suicide, similar to what we
use today for heart disease. Last week, we brought scientists together
from around the country to discuss the latest evidence for predicting
PTSD based on genetic profiles, psychological testing, and trauma
history. New interventions, from medications like prazosin and
d-cycloserine, to psychosocial interventions with virtual reality and
novel cognitive therapies, are being tested, with some promising
24 years of age, a Soldier, on average, has moved from home, family and
friends and has resided in two other states; has traveled the world
(deployed); been promoted four times; bought a car and wrecked it;
married and had children; has had relationship and financial problems;
seen death; is responsible for dozens of Soldiers; maintains millions of
dollars worth of equipment; and gets paid less than $40,000 a year.”
20 percent of the nearly 2 million soldiers who have served in Iraq and
Afghanistan are struggling with the signature wounds of these wars,
PTSD and traumatic brain injury. We know that more soldiers die from
suicide than combat. And we know that veterans of these and earlier wars
are at increased risk for PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and
suicide. As Patrick Kennedy has said, too many soldiers return to become
medical POWs. When the cause is a brain disorder, neuroscience holds
the best hope of setting them free.
One of our most important
partners in this effort is the Veteran’s Administration (VA), which has
become a model for health care in America with its electronic medical
records and integrated care system. In fact, in 2011, NIMH awarded 78
grants at a total of over $36 million for studies involving veterans or
researchers at institutions affiliated with the Veterans Administration
Over the past few years, the VA stepped up its efforts for
addressing psychiatric illnesses, especially PTSD. It is now a leader in
mental health service, thanks to outreach, crisis lines, mobile
applications, such as the award winning “PTSD Coach,”
and other innovative approaches. The VA also has employed dissemination
and implementation initiatives to expand the use of evidence-based
practices in clinical care——which, to date, have resulted in training
more than 5,000 mental health staff in the delivery of at least one
evidence based psychotherapy. Later this month, they will launch a new
anti-stigma campaign, “Make the Connection,” with the hope of bringing
even more people into treatment. The VA has more information and
resources relating mental health at www.mentalhealth.va.gov.
with colleagues at the VA, our focus has been on wounded warriors. This
Veterans Day, 11/11/11, is a day to remember and commit to not only
those who have been wounded, but to all those who have served. How many
24 year-olds have been responsible for protecting dozens of colleagues,
mastering millions of dollars of equipment, and defending the values of
our nation? Some current and former soldiers will be our patients, many
will be our leaders, and all deserve our gratitude.