Health + Behavior

$20.1 million grant expands UCLA Operation Mend’s mental health program

Wounded Warrior Project funding will allow more post 9-11 veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury to receive treatment

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Wounded Warrior Project and UCLA Operation Mend
Courtesy Operation Mend

Representatives from Wounded Warrior Project and UCLA Operation Mend announce support for mental health treatment at a news conference aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

UCLA Health Operation Mend has received a five-year, $20.1 million grant from Wounded Warrior Project to expand its intensive treatment program that serves veterans with post-traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injuries and their caregivers.

The contribution is the largest ever to Operation Mend and is part of a larger $160 million investment that Wounded Warrior Project is making to increase its support of the Warrior Care Network, which includes UCLA, Emory Healthcare, Massachusetts General Hospital and Rush University Medical Center.

“UCLA Operation Mend provides life-changing services for veterans and families in need of specialized medical, psychological and social support services. Thanks to the generosity of the Warrior Care Network, patients and their families will have greater access to the care they need,” said Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System. “UCLA Health is honored to partner with the Warrior Care Network and grateful to Wounded Warrior Project for its incredible commitment to healing our nation’s veterans.”

The funding will allow the program to more than double the number of mental health patients and caregivers treated by the program, which, in its first three years at UCLA, had outcomes showing all participants experiencing statistically significant reductions in all symptoms and a program completion rate of 97 percent.

“We’re grateful to be able to help warriors access world-class mental health treatment,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington, Wounded Warrior Project CEO. “We’re humbled by the support of the nation that allows us to commit to this care.”

Operation Mend launched its intensive treatment program with an initial donation of $15.7 million from Wounded Warrior Project in 2016, and operates as part of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

“Warrior Care Network brings a unified focus to providing access to world-class care for warriors who suffered invisible wounds from their military service,” said Troy Simon, executive director, Operation Mend, UCLA Health Military and Veteran Health Programs. “These warriors and their caregivers deserve this singular focus as they transition back into normal life.”

Each center within the Warrior Care Network shares information intended to improve the program and establish best practices.

“By bringing together four major academic medical centers willing to pool their innovation, passion, research and clinical experience to improve evidence-based treatment models, Warrior Care Network is creating best practices for our nation to treat the invisible wounds of war,” said Dr. Jo Sornborger, director of Operation Mend’s psychological health programs. “We are so proud to be a part of this extraordinary innovative network.”

Operation Mend’s six-week program is designed for patients who require more than regular outpatient care. It consists of three weeks at the UCLA Health campus with intensive treatment to reduce trauma and address cognitive challenges. The final three weeks provides transition care via teleconferencing once the warrior returns home. The UCLA program is the only network partner that also includes family members or caregivers who play an integral role in the patient’s care.

The therapy takes a holistic approach and includes four main components: evidence-based treatment for psychological health, healing arts, wellness and community engagement. The goal is to help veterans regain a sense of normality in their lives.

“After you get back from war, you are a different person. This program teaches you how to live and accept the ‘new you,’” said Army Maj. Yolanda Poullard, who completed the intensive treatment program at Operation Mend in 2016. “It gave me lifelong skills and showed me how to connect with resources in my community.”

Founded in 2007, Operation Mend provides advanced surgical, medical treatment for post 9-11 era service members injured during combat or while training for service. It also offers comprehensive psychological health care and social support for wounded veterans and their family members. There is no charge to patients and their families or caregivers for costs associated with treatment and travel-related expenses. More information is available at the Operation Mend website or by calling 310-267-2110.

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