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Alabama seeks to expand PTSD treatment program

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – More Alabama veterans may soon have access to treatment to combat PTSD symptoms that is currently only available in the Cullman area of ​​northern Alabama.

“They’re fighting a lot of demons and they need a lot of help,” said Col. Ken Brown, a member of the Cullman Veterans of Foreign Wars, or VFW.

Relief from post-traumatic stress disorder comes with an injection into the stellate ganglion, a collection of nerves located in the neck that are responsible for certain symptoms of PTSD. The shot, designed for veterans and first responders with PTSD, helps relax those nerves.

“It lets you keep the memories that you had in the past but you don’t feel the anxiety, the anger, the depression,” explained Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-District 4.

“Just in our county alone, here in Cullman at our VFW station, we know we’ve prevented 14 suicides in two years,” Brown said.

The shots are free, but to get them a veteran or first responder must be an Alabama resident. They must then go to the Cullman VFW Wellstone Center for an assessment before being directed to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham to be vaccinated.

“It’s a very emotional experience because they feel like the weight of the world has lifted off their shoulders after about 15 or 20 minutes of being there,” Brown said.

“We felt like the state had to step in and help this person through the issues they were having, the anxiety, the depression, the anger,” Gudger said.

Alabama lawmakers allocated $200,000 in the 2022 session to make a limited number of treatments free, but this year is also important for the program because the data collected will shape potential legislation for the program’s future.

The money, taken from the general fund, pays 160 strokes. The program will monitor who receives them, how often and the effects.

“Let’s let the state fund this for a year,” Gudger said, “so we can really get the data we need so we know exactly what bill we need to put in place next year.”

The goal is to make shooting easier to access for those who need it.

“Will maybe save your life or change your life and change your family’s life,” Brown said, “and your whole dynamic.”

Brown says there are about 130 shots left of the 160 allowed. You can find them by contacting the VFW Wellstone Center in Cullman at 256-734-4688.

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