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Intrepid Spirit Center opens at Eglin AFB to treat PTSD and TBI

By JIM THOMPSON | Northwest Florida Daily News | Published: July 1, 2020

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — The $11.2-million Intrepid Spirit Center, a project of the not-for-profit Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to be operated through Eglin Air Force Base's 96th Medical Group, opened this week.

The center, like the seven other IFHF-funded facilities located at military bases across the country, is dedicated to diagnosing and treating post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury among active-duty military personnel at installations across the region.

The Eglin facility is the first Intrepid Spirit Center to be located at an Air Force base.

The work of the Invisible Wounds Center, a preexisting effort at Eglin AFB begun two years ago as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), associated pain conditions and psychological injuries, will be folded into the work of the Intrepid Spirit Center.

The Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin comprises 25,000 square feet and features state-of-the-art brain technology and treatment facilities. All of the funding for the project was raised privately through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

"We are extremely proud to open our eighth Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin Air Force Base, the first Intrepid Spirit Center at an Air Force base," Arnold Fisher, honorary IFHF chairman, said in a news release announcing the opening.

Access to the base currently is restricted as its leadership takes steps against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but a formal grand opening for the new center is slated for Aug. 26.

"Our military heroes who fight to protect our freedoms, deserve the best care available and being close to their family and having their support is imperative to the recovery process," Fisher continued. "We are now one step closer to completing our mission of building Intrepid Spirit Centers around the United States."

Dr. Thomas Piazza, director of the Invisible Wounds Center/Intrepid Spirit Center, noted that the new facility will provide "significantly enhanced services" to patients.

"We will continue to provide comprehensive, holistic care to our current patients and accept new active-duty service member referrals from the region," Piazza said.

Due to the pandemic, the Intrepid Spirit Center is opening with some limited capabilities, and has added telehealth solutions for patients while awaiting full operating capability, according to Piazza.

Intrepid Spirit Centers are being funded and built by the IFHF through a $100 million fundraising campaign. Each center is subsequently presented as a gift to the U.S. Department of Defense for operation and management upon completion.

According to the news release, the design and mission of the Intrepid Spirit Centers are based on the original National Intrepid Center of Excellence, which opened in 2010 at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. That facility is the center of the U.S. military's efforts in researching, diagnosing and treating TBI, PTS and related injuries sustained by military personnel.

Ground was broken for the Eglin AFB center in May of last year. At the ground-breaking, Fisher said the work of the IFHF is "not charity."

"It's a duty as an American," he said.

Also on hand for the groundbreaking was Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, who reminded that day's audience that tens of thousands of military personnel are dealing with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

"Thanks to the generosity of many Americans, we're now at a place where we can start providing that care," he said.

In addition to Eglin AFB, Intrepid Spirit Centers currently operate at Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington and Camp Pendleton, California.

©2020 the Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.)
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