Conference 2012: Experiential Opportunity: Neuroscience, PTSD and the Brain

An intrepid group of NASJE members journeyed across Boston by subway for this experiential learning opportunity. At the Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, they were to meet with clinicians, veterans, and the program director to learn in a hands-on fashion what the Home Base Program is about, how veterans are diagnosed and treated for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, and why families are included in the treatment programs of returning war veterans. The session plan included an introduction to the Home Base program in a classroom setting, followed by a visit to the actual clinic to see the process in action.

The best laid plans can be hijacked by unforeseeable events, and this plan proved to be no exception. About ten participants made it safely to the 7th floor Home Base location, but the second elevator full of twelve people got stuck with the doors closed for a harrowing 30 minutes in a hot, sweaty, claustrophobic environment while the final group of NASJE members tried to help from outside in the hall. Building engineers argued about what to do to open the elevators, nervous victims called 911, and Boston firefighters arrived on the scene. Finally, the doors opened and a pile of hot and anxious folks poured out of the box.

Thus, the topic of PTSD moved front and center into the minds of the NASJE members involved in the experience. As it turned out, the delay in arrival to the Home Base conference room meant that the group could not visit the clinic. They did benefit greatly from the Home Base team who explained the purposes of Home Base, the symptoms of traumatic brain injury and of PTSD, and the ways that the program offers treatment and help for all family members involved when either of these injuries emerges in a returning service member. They also heard first hand from a combat veteran about the difficulties service members face re-integrating into society upon return from combat. The connection between combat injuries, re-integration difficulties, and the courts was very clear.

Home Base is a partnership between Massachusetts General Hospital and the Red Sox Foundation and is the first partnership of its kind between an academic medical center and a major league baseball team designed to address the invisible wounds of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. In the courts, judges and court staff see the effects of these invisible wounds manifested in many ways. This learning opportunity helped NASJE members to better understand why injured service members may behave as they do, and some of the issues that court personnel and judicial officers need learn about and understand in order to better serve this constituency.