Officials Dedicate Treatment Center for TBI, PTSD at Fort Bragg

Every time Arnold Fisher cuts a ribbon outside an Intrepid Spirit Center, he said it feels a little sweeter.

So the real estate magnate, philanthropist and long time supporter of the military was all smiles on Thursday, as he helped dedicate the center on Fort Bragg.

The Intrepid Spirit Center is a dedicated facility for treating traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain and psychological health conditions, like post-traumatic stress, in troops.

The nonprofit Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has been building them on military installations for about five years.

The Fort Bragg center, which opened at the beginning of the year off Longstreet Road, is the fourth of its kind, but fifth to be officially dedicated.

And officials said it was already exceeding expectations, treating troops at a higher rate, and with more success than previously seen.

"It's getting better, every time we open one," Fisher said.

With Fort Bragg's $11 million, 25,000-square foot center officially dedicated, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is more than halfway through its goal of building nine Intrepid Spirit Centers on military posts across the U.S.

In doing so, they are creating a national network of care that works with the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to improve the care of those suffering from brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Centers have already been opened at Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Camp Lejeune; and Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Another at Fort Hood, Texas, opened after Fort Bragg's, but was officially dedicated several weeks earlier.

Fisher, the honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, said officials have already broken ground on a center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington and will soon do the same at Camp Pendleton, California. Additional centers are planned for Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Carson, Colorado.

At Fort Bragg, the Intrepid Spirit Center falls under the umbrella of Womack Army Medical Center, but has created a "one-stop shop" for troops suffering from traumatic brain injury or PTSD at the nation's largest military installation.

U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Henry McMillan, executive director of the Fort Bragg center, said the new building allowed teams of health professionals to consolidate from five other locations to provide more comprehensive and holistic care.

Health providers began seeing patients at the new site in January, and the move has come during a growth in need.

McMillan said Fort Bragg has seen an increase in traumatic brain inljury evaluations, from an average 20 per month in June 2015 to more than 45 per month currently.

In February alone, he said the Fort Bragg center evaluated 87 troops for head injuries. And the facility is on pace to treat more than 3,000 troops in 2016, a 25 percent increase over last year.

"It would be impossible for us to manage these numbers of involved patients without the increased space," McMillan said.

Fisher said he was impressed by results already seen from Fort Bragg's Intrepid Spirt Center, which currently has a 94 percent success rate in returning troops to their regular duties.

"We never, ever expected to have numbers like that," he said.

Maj. Gen. Richard W. Thomas, director of the Defense Health Agency Healthcare Operations Directorate, said is was fitting to see that success at Fort Bragg, the "Home of America's Premier Warriors."

"This is not the first time Fort Bragg has led the way in medical care," Thomas said. "Not only is Fort Bragg a symbol of America's fighting capability, it's always been a symbol of the strength of our Army medicine and military medicine."

Fisher said the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund still needs $33 million to finish the four remaining Intrepid Spirit Centers.

He said the organization uses 100 percent of its donations on the cost of construction, but said he didn't want the organization described as a charity.

"We don't give the military charity," Fisher said. "This is our duty as Americans."

"The American people will have your back," he added, talking to the service members gathered for the ceremony. "I promise you that."

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