The labyrinth meditation room at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md.
NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark attended a conference at the White House in January supporting Joining Forces, a national initiative that assists U.S. service members, veterans and their families.
Joining Forces is led by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife. The initiative mobilizes all sectors of society to give U.S. military service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned, according to the initiative’s Web page [archived].
The focus of the January meeting was to discuss how service members are affected by traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, Clark said.
“NASW is happy to be a part of the Joining Forces initiative,” she said, adding that it is important for social workers to educate themselves about TBI, a condition that arises when an outside force traumatically causes injury to the brain. Although TBI can fall under the scope of a head injury, the two are not necessarily the same, Clark said.
“In order to practice efficiently in the future, it is important for us as social workers to have knowledge and skills around the issues of TBI and post-traumatic stress when working with service members and veterans,” she said.
The Joining Forces conference took participants on a guided tour of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, located at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The $65 million facility, which opened in June 2010, is designed to treat military members with TBI and mental health challenges that stem from active duty.
The tour was led by Intrepid Center Deputy Cmdr. Capt. S.M. Kass, Director J.P. Kelly, Deputy Director and Chief of Medical Operations T.J. DeGraba, Chief of Staff Capt. M.E. Hendee and Deputy Director for Clinical Operations Capt. R.L. Koffman.
Attendees were given a detailed look at the facilities within the Intrepid Center, including a labyrinth meditation room, mechanisms to determine if service members are ready to return to combat, and highly optimized magnetic resonance imaging equipment. The labyrinth helps check patients’ balancing skills and offers them the opportunity to reflect as they walk on the inlaid panels of white and dark oak that make up the floor maze, Clark said.
“In all my years in health care, I’ve never seen anything like the services offered at the Intrepid Center,” she said. “I am especially intrigued by the MRI capabilities.”
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. J.A. Winnefeld Jr. gave opening remarks after the tour, and Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Wounded Warrior Care Col. D.W. Sutherland spoke.
“The speech by Col. Sutherland was incredibly moving,” Clark said. “He clearly displayed his passion for the service and for protecting people, and he is a part of the Wounded Warrior Care project, which is dedicated to treating injured service members.”