How the On-Demand Economy Can Solve Our Veterans PTSD Problem

Picture walking into a doctor’s office, seeking medical assistance for migraines, insomnia, or trouble sleeping. Within an hour, you’re probably talking to a doctor who is trying to identify the root cause of your symptoms. You’re likely to get treatment designed to cure the problem you’ve identified. And you can keep getting treated until the problem is solved.

Now picture a veteran seeking medical assistance for those identical symptoms. Their experience will be vastly different. Facing a wait time averaging up to 60 days, they are likely to receive a generic diagnosis of PTSD followed by a routine prescription of anti-depressants and a “one size fits all” approach to treatment. And when it’s all over, chances are good that their migraine, anxiety, depression, or insomnia still exists.

It is difficult enough for veterans to seek help, out of fear of being labeled “crazy” and struggling over what a PTSD diagnosis can mean for their employment opportunities. Mental health is highly stigmatized in this country, especially among the veteran community. In fact, 70% of veterans who die by suicide are not enrolled in the VA. Those who do reach out for help should not be left feeling discouraged.

The System Is Deadly

The consequences can be deadly. According to new research released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in July, 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide — putting the suicide rate for veterans more than 20% higher than that of the civilian population. If a civilian can receive immediate, expert mental health care treatment, why can’t a veteran expect the same? That simple, yet daunting question has led us to develop a program that provides individually tailored treatment that is cost-free, stigma-free, and bureaucracy-free for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from the crippling and hidden wounds of war. While the majority of veterans who die by suicide are over the age of 50, it is critically important that we treat PTSD amongst younger post-9/11 veterans now so that they can recover and lead full, meaningful, and joy filled lives.

It’s Time for an Upgrade. More Options = Better Outcomes

We founded the Headstrong Project in 2012, and through our partnership with the Weill Cornell Medical College, one of the nation’s leading mental health care centers, we have developed a comprehensive treatment program for PTSD, addiction, anxiety and depression, trauma, grief and loss, and anger management. We have eliminated the traditional and expensive “brick and mortar” facilities that add overhead and administrative costs.

We currently treat veterans in the New York Metro area, San Diego and Riverside County, and Houston, with plans to expand to three additional cities by end of year and nationwide within the next three years.

Our program is run by leading mental health care experts and by veterans who have lived through the unaffordable costs of private practice care or the long wait times and miles of red tape that most veterans face while seeking treatment. We have identified and targeted the barriers already in place and, in a true military fashion, came up with effective solutions for eliminating them — by putting funding directly into the care of the veterans.

Standard Treatment Vs. Headstrong Treatment

Airbnb has become the largest hotel company in the world without owning any real estate. Uber has become the largest livery service without owning any cars. Similarly, we are able to efficiently cut out bureaucracy and ensure high quality, without needing to build brick and mortar facilities or have large numbers of clinicians on our staff. Instead, our team at Weill Cornell recruit and vet a network of world-class mental health care providers and then manage the care of the veterans to ensure they are getting better, while we pay the hourly bills. This means we have accountability of outcomes, without a bloated organization or payroll.

The Proof Is in The Numbers

Veterans seeking assistance are contacted by a Headstrong staff member and licensed clinician within 48 hours after initiating contact. We have pre-negotiated rates with a variety of vetted high-quality medical providers, averaging $5,000-$10,000 for six months of care, without a cap on the number of sessions or services we provide.

It is important to note that we treat our clients with as much care as they need for as long as they need. For the majority, this is three to five months, but some require longer term care. Our treatment program is driven by quality of life goals and measurements, not a set duration or number of sessions.

Since 2012, we have treated over 200 post-9/11 veterans suffering from the hidden wounds of war. Veterans who receive tailored and consistent mental health treatment experience measurable improvement in their emotional well-being, leading to significant reductions in harmful behaviors including substance use. They are able to go to school, get a job, and maintain sobriety.

Results from the Headstrong Project treatment program include:

  • 86% reported better sleep
  • 92% had reduced suicidal ideation
  • 91% had improved mood
  • 95% had improvements in job and/or education
  • 89% used less drugs or alcohol

Headstrong Feature in Humans of New York

Marine Corps veteran Derek Coy will soon be featured in Humans of New York, discussing his experience with the Headstrong Project. Derek resides in the Bronx and was diagnosed with PTSD in 2009. He struggled with the denial of this diagnosis which put a heavy strain on several of his relationships and isolated him from his peers. His experience with the veteran mental health care services made him feel completely overwhelmed — he felt like the clinicians were talking at him, rather than with him. He struggled with substance abuse, panic attacks and anger management until he finally turned to Headstrong. He has been enrolled in our program for three years and has successfully stayed on course with managing his symptoms of PTSD. As a veteran, he has learned how to survive but with the help of Headstrong, he learned how to thrive.

Derek C. U.S. Marine Corp Sergeant

Headstrong Helping Our Generation of Veterans

We have a vision to correct the treatment of veterans and we are on a mission to expand to new communities across the country to ensure that this generation of veterans pursue their life ambitions and their potential in life.

Please take a few minutes to watch the Headstrong Project video testimonial and for more information, please go to www.getheadstrong.org. I look forward to sharing our upcoming initiatives with you in the coming weeks and months.

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