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New Center to Help Wounded Warriors Opens in Bethesda

bethesdaNow Bethesda won’t be famous for its boutiques and bars alone.

As of last week, this part of Montgomery County, Md., houses the new National Intrepid Center of Excellence, which will improve the ability of military and civilian healthcare providers to treat traumatic brain injuries and psychological disorders in war veterans, said Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn in a opening ceremony last Thursday.

Located on the National Naval Medical Center grounds, the center is one of six created under the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, established in 2007 to lead Department of Defense work on brain science and treatment in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as academic and other institutions. It will serve as a hub for service members and their families to get better diagnosis and treatment plans than are available at their local military installation, Lynn said.

“The need for such an institution could not be more pressing as our military approaches its 10th year at war,” Lynn said.

The deputy secretary noted that although there have been advancements in medical care and equipment have allowed more service members to survive combat injuries, many troops are coming back with brain injuries and psychological problems. Studies show that more than 10 percent of military members who served in Iraq suffered concussions, and at least 12 percent show significant signs of combat stress, depression or similar issues, Lynn said.

“They’ll need care long after the wars are over,” he added.

The department has done other things to promote mental health, including appointing directors of psychological health in every state to offer consistent service to National Guard members and their families and adding more than 2,000 mental-health providers, Lynn said.

Finally, he said, the department continues to emphasize to service members their careers will not be jeopardized for seeking mental-health treatment.

“No one is more supportive of the mission of the center” than Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Lynn said, adding that Gates deeply regretted he had to cancel his appearance at the ceremony due to the situation surrounding the need for a change of command in Afghanistan.

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