The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 27, 2007

Seminar focuses on helping returning GIs adjust

Front-line community health care workers often are the first to deal with returning troops’ issues readjusting to civilian life.

That’s what makes programs like this week’s state Department of Health seminar so important, Dr. Burton Singerman told participants at the Pasquerilla Conference Center, 201 Napoleon St.

“They have people working with this in urban areas,” Singerman said.

“What do you do in more geographically isolated areas? Many (soldiers) don’t want to get involved in the Veterans Administration system. They might be afraid of being stigmatized or reduced chances for advancement.”

Singerman is a psychiatrist and chairman of behavioral medicine at Memorial Medical Center. He addressed about 100 psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and other mental health workers Thursday at the Health Department’s regional drug and alcohol training institute.

The three-day seminar began Wednesday and concludes today.

Help for returning veterans must come from the local community, Singerman said, outlining the Combat Stress Intervention Program at Memorial.

The three-year, $1.5 million research project with Washington & Jefferson College and Highlands Hospital in Fayette County focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder and combat stress, he said.

It will identify barriers to mental health care facing National Guard and Reserve troops when they return from the global war on terrorism.

Researchers will then develop, deliver and evaluate programs for the troops while providing and reviewing education and awareness for community providers and family members.

Lessons learned from the Israeli army may help, Singerman said. He was one of just three civilians on a recent tour of Israel’s military health care infrastructure. Israel has been working with post-traumatic stress disorder since the 1950s and developed something called “resiliency training,” he said.

“How do normal people deal with horrendous abnormal situations?” Singerman said. “What allows them to cope with it? How do we maximize their ability to recover?”

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