When soldiers come home from war, for generations many have been lauded and appreciated for their service, but the injuries of war continue on inside for many of those soldiers.
For many, the “invisible wounds of war” can drive them to hopelessness, or even suicide.
It’s an epidemic, officials said on Friday during a ribbon cutting in the Navy Yard, where 100,000 combat veterans have committed suicide since 9/11 – yet medicine has never fully gotten a handle on it.
That is all changing with an innovative program in Charlestown launched by Mass. General Hospital and the Boston Red Sox – a program called Home Base that has now expanded its nation-leading word on Constitution Wharf.
Last Friday, virtually every state, federal and local official was on hand to cut the ribbon on Home Base’s new National Center For Excellence. That new Center will double Home Base’s capacity to continue to innovate way to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD), brain injuries, addiction, suicide and wellness.
“Six years ago we attempted to build a great program into a wonderful program that would have strategic impact,” said Brig. Gen. (ret.) Jack Hammond, the executive director of Home Base. “Researching and treating these issues is still in the AM radio stages in the medical world. It has been under-resourced and poorly funded. We needed strategic impact with strategic partners…Now we will be able to double the size and double the impact. We’ll be able to have two rounds going simultaneously. Instead of 12 veterans, we’ll have 36…We are here to try to stem the tide of the epidemic of veteran suicide. This new facility will give us the resources and space to maximize our potential.”
He said they also plan to use the new space in Constitution Wharf to develop a program for families of soldiers who have died in war.
“There is no clinical program in the U.S. for families that lost loved ones in war,” he said. “We’re going to develop one and run it four times a year with these families and we’re going to continue to build it out because it’s the right thing to do.”
Dr. Peter Slavin of Mass. General said they will continue to support the effort with the Red Sox, and he said it is truly an innovative care model.
“Home Base is 10 years old and this was for my money the most important innovation in the way we help men and women coming back from the combat theatre in dealing with PTSD and all the other issues associated with these invisible wounds,” said Slavin of Mass. General.
Others in the audience who praised the efforts included Gov. Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin Walsh, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, State Rep. Dan Ryan and Attorney General Maura Healey.
“This is a program that understands veterans and all the things that come with what they’ve been through,” said Markey. “This program is a home run. It is the model for the U.S. and the world.”