While the symposia did not attract the number of primary care practitioners the partners hoped for, it was still considered a success. Keeping in mind lessons learned during the 2011 series, they relaunched the symposia in 2012 to cover an expanded geographical area. The first, held in July in Arlington, Va., attracted about 100 participants. They are headed to Watertown, N.Y., and New York City in the fall, and to Dayton, Ohio, in November. “We covered Pennsylvania pretty thoroughly in 2011, so we used the Red Cross and Health Net data to pinpoint concentrations of post-deployed Guards and Reserves to determine where to take it next,” says Bixler.

One change for 2012 was to bring in the DoD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology, also known as T2, which along with DVBIC and the Center for Deployment Psychology falls under the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. T2’s addition to the program includes online technological resources
and applications for those who need help with self-managing issues such as sleep problems.

There’s also a program that uses avatars to help people address their combat experiences, as well as online resources for the families of returning military, and apps to help those on the provider side do things like manage mild TBI. “We’ve seen them demonstrate these resources at other meetings, and we invited them to send a presenter this year; we invited participants to bring their smartphones and tablets so they could be walked through the various resources and apps,” says Grissom.

“We’re starting now to focus on not just raising awareness of the issues,” says the Red Cross’ Kukor, “but also what resources are available and what participants can do to learn more.”

While the program received high marks from the primary care physicians who did attend, the problem of getting more of them to come remains. The partners wonder if the one-day seminar format may be a sticking point for this particular audience.

 “They need recognition and screening strategies and first-stop management strategies for mild TBI, which is less than what the behavioral health side needs on the topic,” says Grissom. The idea is to streamline the information this type of participant needs into a one- or two-hour session that can be offered as part of other educational events that primary care physicians already attend, or perhaps as a webinar or some other type of online offering.

“We’re looking for more ways to work with our partners,” Grissom says, “especially the Center for Deployment Psychology, because the behavioral interest is so high. We’ll complete the four symposia we have scheduled for this year, then see where we can most usefully take it from there.”

Kukor adds, “We likely will be looking at how we can be a funnel to make what’s out there more useful to the majority of mental health and primary care providers to give them direction once they have awareness of the issues. It might mean adding specific topics; it might mean more collaboration, depending on the feedback we get and what the professional literature says.”

“We do know there is a lot of need, and that people who need help may not be close to a military or VA facility that can assist them,” Grissom points out. “So a community-based approach to meeting their needs is something that needs to be developed more robustly to provide the best and most compassionate services to these folks and their families.” 

Read the Sidebar: What We Learned from Our Experience