Alabama looks to expand PTSD treatment program

Alabama is looking to expand a treatment program for veterans with PTSD.
Alabama is looking to expand a treatment program for veterans with PTSD.(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 6:21 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - More of Alabama’s veterans could soon be able to access a treatment to fight symptoms of PTSD that’s currently only available in the Cullman area in north Alabama.

“They’re fighting a lot of demons, and they need a lot of help,” said Colonel Ken Brown, a member of the Cullman Veterans of Foreign Wars, or VFW.

Relief from post-traumatic stress disorder comes with a shot to the stellate ganglion, a collection of nerves found in the neck that are responsible for certain symptoms of PTSD. The shot, designed for veterans and first responders with PTSD, helps to relax those nerves.

“It allows you to keep the memories that you have had in the past but you do not feel the anxiety, the anger, the depression,” explained state Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-District 4.

“Just in our county alone, up here in Cullman at our VFW Post, we know we’ve prevented 14 suicides in two years,” said Brown.

The shots are free, but to get them, a veteran or first responder must be an Alabama resident. They then must travel to Cullman VFW Wellstone Center for an evaluation before being directed to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham to actually get the shot.

“It’s a very emotional experience because they feel like the weight of the world has come off their shoulders after about a 15 or 20-minute procedure,” said Brown.

“We felt like the state needed to come in and help that person get over whatever issues they’re having, anxiety, depression, anger,” said Gudger.

Alabama lawmakers allocated $200,000 during the 2022 session to make a limited number of treatments free, but this year is also important for the program because collected data will shape potential legislation for the program’s future.

The money, appropriated from the general fund, pays for 160 shots. The program will monitor who is receiving them, how often, and the effects.

“Let the state fund this for one year,” said Gudger, “so that we can really get the data that we need so that we will know exactly what bill we need to put in place this next year.”

The goal is to make the shot easier to access for those who need it.

“Possibly going to save your life or change your life and change your family’s life,” said Brown, “and your whole dynamic.”

Brown says there are about 130 shots left from the 160 allocated. You can find them by contacting the VFW Wellstone Center in Cullman at 256-734-4688.

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