My Day With Robin Hood: the need for Big Data in treatment of #PTSD and #TBI #RHVets

Yesterday I had the distinct honor of attending the Robin Hood Veterans Summit on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Robin Hood is the largest private poverty-fighter in New York City whose mission is to find, fund and cultivate the most effective poverty fighting methods and programs.  They have been called “venture philanthropists” and their initiatives include supporting the families of 9.11 in addition to helping returning Veterans.

The connection between the high rate of homelessness and previous generations of Veterans has further energized their efforts in an attempt to prevent our generation from ending up on the street (roughly 25% of all homeless in NYC are Veterans).

The Agenda for the day brought together panels with an impressive list of names .

By the time I reached the afternoon sessions I was exhausted.  I did my best to keep the tears to a minimum, but that sapped all my energy by the end of the day.

Back from the Battlefield: The Mental Health Crisis

Gayle King of CBS This Morning moderated the last panel of the day.  She did a fantastic job pulling and prodding the three panelists about various issues with Mental Health, specifically TBI and PTSD.

In one pointed exchange she asked if PTSD is curable.  I stiffened up to listen intently to the replies of each panelist.  Each one gracefully sidestepped the question without a definitive “No”, but not with a “Yes” either.

General Chiarelli, CEO of One Mind for Research , banged away on the drug companies for not releasing any new drugs in the past ten years to treat PTSD or TBI.

Barbara Van Dahlen, President of Give an Hour, emphasized the statistics that half (50%) of all Veterans never enter the VA.  While her foundation is making great strides in picking up some of the slack in private practice, there are huge swaths of Veterans receiving no treatment at all.

One thing the panel greatly emphasized: we are behind in treating Veterans as well as forming new techniques.

Big Data

At the end of the day, one recurring notion consistently infiltrated each panel.  When trying to substantiate the statistics, there is just not enough data.

There were encouraging highlights of research being shared.  Syracuse University is releasing a manual of best practices for hiring Veterans later this month.  But, in the end, ever changing data and only a few disparate snapshots are driving the thought behind treatment approaches and future studies.  And that study is about hiring Veterans, not their mental health treatment.


That word was used a dozen times throughout the day.  In the grand scope of things, we have emphasized the treatment of PTSD, the signature wound of this war, for a short time.  Still, treatments formulated now are based upon old data.   Additionally, the long term formulation of new treatments is being hampered because the collection of data is either non existent or too fractured.  Again, there is not enough reliable longitudinal data.

Government 2.0 meet Web 2.0

In this day and age, where many people are connected, there must be a way to collect this data.  I would argue that there are probably untapped pockets of great data already.  Mining this information, formulating a clear picture and a subsequent plan of action should be a high, if not the top, priority for the treatment of PTSD.

We are battling many issues in collecting data: stigmas about the “Disorder”, many Veterans going off the grid, and a centralized repository of information that can be surveyed in a statistically significant manner.  If we are to make great strides in the treatment of PTSD and TBI, all of these issues must be tackled, and I would argue, not tackled in a vacuum or independent of one another.  I heard encouraging news about new initiatives and programs coming in the weeks and months.  Some of them include a start at organizing data.

I have many ideas, and I am working on a few of them.  For selfish reasons, I am more than happy to share.

2 thoughts on “My Day With Robin Hood: the need for Big Data in treatment of #PTSD and #TBI #RHVets

  1. Juliza Ramirez-Wylie

    Thanks for sharing this – great to know that GEN Chiarelli who led 1st Cavalry Division in battle is now also involved in the fight for treatment of PTSD.

  2. David Haas

    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?

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