Monday, June 23, 2014

IOM Faults Pentagon, VA for Lack of Data to Assess Effectiveness of PTSD Care

In a just-published two-year study, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has concluded that despite enormous investments of time, money, and effort in programs to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), neither the Department of Defense (DoD) nor the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) "knows with certainty whether those programs and services are actually successful in reducing the prevalence of PTSD in service members or veterans and in improving their lives."

The 300-page report points out that between 7% and 20% of U.S. service members and veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may have PTSD and that it can "pervade all aspects of a service member's or veteran's life...," yet neither department collects much treatment outcome data, and what few data exist "suggest that there are only modest improvements in PTSD symptoms after treatment in these programs." To remedy this situation, the IOM committee urges the agencies to develop "an integrated, coordinated, and comprehensive PTSD management strategy that plans for the growing burden of PTSD for service members, veterans, and their families, including female veterans and minority group members."

Committee members emphasized as well that the number of mental health care providers "has not kept pace with the growing demand for PTSD services," and the two agencies have "no formal procedures for evaluating those providers" who have been hired in the last few years or for tracking the care they deliver.

APA President Paul Summergrad, M.D., said, "The IOM's report and recommendations are helpful as our nation contemplates comprehensive reforms to the VA. The IOM Committee found that DoD and VA "should have available an adequate workforce of mental health care providers," especially to meet the demand for PTSD treatment, which is why APA is strongly advocating for the passage of the Ensuring Veterans' Resiliency Act. We also agree that it's crucial to have accurate data and mechanisms in place to evaluate which programs are most effective in relieving PTSD symptoms."

To read about the IOM committee's initial report on PTSD programs in the DoD and VA, see the Psychiatric News article, "Military, VA Can Do Better in PTSD Response, Experts Say."

(image: John Gomez/shutterstock)


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