Commanders Discuss Mental Health Treatment

Commanders at Fort Carson are answering questions about treatment for soldiers coping with the stress of combat.

They say there is room for improvement.

Commanders say they're concerned about the health of all their soldiers...admit to making some mistakes in the past, but believe if soldiers need it, help is there.

The co-chair of a Congressional established task force on matters of mental health in the armed forces is checking in on army installations across the country, stopping in at Fort Carson Thursday.

"In the 30 years I've been an Army physician I've never seen Congress, the Department of Defense not only more engaged, but more supportive of it," said the Amy's Surgeon General LTC Kevin C. Kiley.

Kiley says the military is making strides in recognizing and treating soldiers for post traumatic stress as they try to fit back in to life at home after months of combat.

"The quicker we can make a diagnosis and begin therapy the higher the likelihood we'll cure individuals," Kiley said.

After facing accusations of neglecting soldiers' needs, Fort Carson commanders say advanced health programs are working, helping on-post care givers recognize 590 cases of P-T-S-D in 2006, up from 520 from a year before.

"I think we're doing some pioneering work and I think General Kiley's team will give us some insights we can continue to use," said Division West Commanding General Robert Mixon.

Local counselors who’ve handled soldier's cases say it's a step in the right direction.

"I'm waiting to see that they do follow through with what they're saying,” therapist Gerald Sandeford said.

But commanders say the challenge is breaking through the stigma attached to soldiers admitting they need help, which they report is part of new training for troops heading to battle...

"Are we going to be able to eliminate the stigma associated with PTSD, no. Are we going to be able to mitigate it, yes," said COL John Cho, Commander of Evans Army Community Hospital.

...And part of taking better care of all who wear a uniform

"Soldiers need to know we care, our leaders care and we're going to help them," Mixon said.

The task force is comprised of 7 Department Of Defense members and 7 non-DOD members. The group will make assessments and provide recommendations for further improving mental health care to service members, submitting a report to the Secretary Of Defense in May.

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