AURORA | Two civilian initiatives are coming this summer to University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to help veterans and their families deal with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress and other psychological health issues, officials announced at an event Friday at the Aurora campus.
A five-year, $38 million gift from The Marcus Foundation will create the Marcus Institute for Brain Health, helping veterans manage the lingering effects of service-related concussions.
The foundation, based in Atlanta, was established by Bernard Marcus, co-founder of the Home Depot.
“Have a building named after me is not meaningful to me,” Marcus said at the announcement May 12 at the Anschutz Campus. “My foundation and my family are interested in only one thing, that’s helping people survive in this world.”
The university also announced it will work with the Cohen Veterans Network, which has committed $9.8 million over three years to establish a mental health clinic for metro-area veterans and their families. The network was started by hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen.
Both programs are separate from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is building a $1.7 billion medical center less than a mile from the campus in Aurora.
A PTSD treatment center was part of the original plan for the VA hospital but it was cut from the first phase because the overall project ran far over budget.
Officials of the new civilian programs said they will complement VA services and fill some gaps. Both will offer care to veterans who are ineligible for VA services because they received other-than-honorable discharges.
The Marcus Institute will treat up to 400 veterans a year using traditional and alternative medicine, said Dr. James Kelly, executive director of the institute.
“The idea would be to blend very advanced, very high-tech medical care with complementary and alternative medical methods such as acupuncture and breathing techniques and relaxation and therapeutic massage, a whole variety of things that we’ve found useful,” he said. “Where better to create such a place but within the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, on an academic medical campus with a proud tradition of caring for military service members and their families?”
Kelly, a neurologist, led the Defense Department’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for seven years. The center treats active-duty servicemen and women with traumatic brain injuries and psychological health conditions.
Spencer Milo, pegged as director of veteran programs at the Marcus Institute, said the program will examine the cause, not just the cure. A veteran who suffered from a brain injury himself, Milo said he is bringing aspects of his recovery program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to the Marcus Institute.
“I learned that our current healthcare system is not setup to solve problems, it’s there to treat symptoms,” he said. “This system (MIBH) is about solving problems, not treating symptoms.”
Veterans will not be charged anything for participating, even if they do not have insurance, Kelly said.
The institute will have about 30 doctors, psychologists and physical therapists when it reaches full strength next year. It will use existing facilities at the Anschutz campus.
The Cohen Military Family Clinic will be one of 25 around the nation. It will provide free or low-cost mental health care to veterans and their families and a couple of miles from the Anschutz campus.
It will offer treatment for post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, marital problems, children’s behavioral health and related issues, said Anthony Hassan, president and CEO of the Cohen Veterans Network. It will focus on post-9/11 veterans but others will be considered if services are available.
The Marcus Foundation hopes the institute will be a model for similar programs elsewhere. Marcus hopes more philanthropists will join the cause and said he hoped to have one in every community.
“This isn’t the short game, this is the long game,” Milo said. “Wars aren’t going away.”
Staff writer Cassandra Ballard contributed to this report.