03 Sep

SoldierStrong, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing advanced medical technologies to veterans, and the Department of Veterans Affairs have signed a memorandum of agreement to move forward with an initiative to use a virtual reality system to treat patients experiencing post-traumatic stress.

This system was developed by Skip Rizzo, PhD, Director for Medical Virtual Reality, at the Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles. Dr. Rizzo is a pioneer in the use of xR technologies to treat PTSD and other psychological issues, with a focus on returning military veterans. He will be leading a panel in the Immersive Healthcare Symposium, part of the xRS Week 2019 Conference, to be held this October in San Francisco.

An estimated 20 military veterans take their lives each day and one major study suggested that unremediated post-traumatic stress is the single most common underlying factor for veterans who consider or attempt suicide.

“Virtual reality treatment shows promise in two key areas,” said SoldierStrong co-founder Chris Meek. “It is both clinically effective and it reduces the stigma that many service members feel about seeking treatment for their post-traumatic stress. With the rise in popularity of virtual reality in non-medical settings, such as video games, entertainment and even the workplace, there’s convincing evidence that younger veterans will be more inclined to seek treatment using VR techniques than other methods.”

Through its StrongMind Virtual Reality System, SoldierStrong will donate virtual reality software and hardware to ten VA medical centers in the coming year with the goal is reducing the number of veteran suicides across the country.

The Veterans Health Administration’s Innovative Ecosystem (IE) will “assist in the facilitation and deployment of the equipment, as well as coordinate the training efforts for the provided equipment and software,” said Dr. Ryan Vega, director of the VA’s Diffusion of Excellence Initiative.

“Public-private partnerships are an important component in the VA’s ongoing effort to provide the best possible care of America’s veterans,” Vega said. “This agreement with SoldierStrong holds great promise to address the highest priority and one of the most vexing challenges we face, which is the need to successfully alleviate the most debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress and reduce the number of combat-related suicides.”

The agreement represents a significant next step in the work that SoldierStrong does on behalf of America’s servicemen and women. Since the organization’s inception following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, SoldierStrong has donated more than $3 million of medical devices to help injured veterans. SoldierStrong donated its 21st exoskeleton donation used in the rehabilitation of spinal injuries – including the 16th to the VA system – in San Diego on July 1.

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