The Road Home Program - Treatment for the Invisible Wounds of War

Friday, January 4, 2019

Members of the team at The Road Home Program: The National Center of Excellence for Veterans and Their Families at Rush tend not to talk about the program’s “clients” or “patients.” Instead, they refer to the veterans in their care as “warriors” — an acknowledgment not only of their clients’ military service but also of the battles that many continue to fight against PTSD and other mental health issues.

Since 2014, the program has helped more than 1,200 veterans and their families transition to civilian life by offering specialized mental health care, regardless of discharge status or ability to pay. In recognition of its effectiveness, the Road Home Program recently received a $45 million grant from the Wounded Warrior Project, or WWP, the largest grant ever received by Rush University Medical Center, to continue and expand its services to veterans.

“This grant will allow us to provide necessary, evidence-based treatment for PTSD to nearly twice as many veterans over the next five years,” says Rebecca Van Horn, MD, Road Home’s medical director.

In addition, the Health Information Management and Systems Society just named the Road Home Program a winner of its Davies Award of Excellence for innovations in technology. This prestigious award recognizes outstanding achievement by organizations that have used health care information technology to substantially improve patient outcomes and value.

Intensive treatment is effective treatment

The centerpiece of the Road Home Program is an innovative three-week, intensive outpatient program, or IOP, that provides evidence-based treatment for PTSD. A study by the Rush team, published in the journal BMC Psychiatry in July, found that while nearly 40 percent of veterans drop out of traditional 10-to-12-week PTSD treatment programs, 92 percent of Road Home clients complete the IOP and achieve rapid, clinically meaningful reduction in their symptoms.

The Road Home’s comprehensive care and its commitment to ease of access both contribute to that high completion rate, says Michael Brennan, PsyD, clinical director of the Road Home Program and a coauthor of the study. “We’re unique in that we try to fill some of the gaps,” he explains. “For instance, we pay for travel for warriors and their families to come to us no matter where they live — we’ve treated folks from Washington state to Maine, to Puerto Rico and Guam.”

Improving results in real time

To maximize the effectiveness of each client’s care, the Road Home team created a process for collecting real-time data on treatment progress and using it to target symptoms as needed. After every session, the treatment provider documents symptom changes on an electronic form; clients also fill out daily surveys about their own progress. The content of the next session is then adjusted to meet the client’s needs.

By tailoring treatment this way, the Road Home Program has improved the response of patients under its care. After just three weeks of treatment, nearly 60 percent of patients receiving care in the IOP no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.

More care for more warriors

The award from the Wounded Warrior Project will enable the Road Home Program to deliver effective care to more veterans than ever. Combined with additional funds to be raised by Rush — in part to lay the groundwork for the Road Home’s long-term sustainability — the grant will help the program expand its space and staff to provide services to approximately 5,000 veterans and their family members over the next five years.

The grant represents a true vote of confidence from the WWP, says William Beiersdorf, Road Home Program executive director. “They see the effect that we’re able to have on the lives of veterans and their families, and that’s because we’ve found the right people for our team — people who exemplify the core values of compassion and respect.”

To maximize the value of the grant, the Road Home team continues to test ways to provide treatment as efficiently as possible — for example, treating two cohorts of veterans each month instead of one. “We’re committed to doing more with our resources,” Beiersdorf says, “to provide the best possible care to as many people as we can.”