Bridging Warriors seeks to improve PTSD treatment options locally
Soquel resident Karen Egan witnessed firsthand how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) changes lives.
Her 26-year-old son Ben Rudolph developed PTSD after surviving a major car accident eight years ago that left him with severe injuries. In the months following the accident, he and Egan visited more than 20 doctors across the country. It wasn’t until almost a year after the accident that Rudolph developed PTSD, which the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says is characterized by flashbacks, tension, and emotional numbness.
Through her son’s experience, Egan says she realized just how important treatment was for living with this condition but how hard it was to find good resources. The incident gave her a window into a disorder that 3.5 percent of the adult population faces, according to the NIMH, and, as a result, she became concerned for local military veterans she knew fell disproportionately into this category.
“Early identification and intervention are key to healing, and most often for combat veterans, this isn’t the case,” says Egan, who began volunteering at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in 2011. “It was obvious in this community that veterans were the most impacted group of individuals with PTSD.”
Veterans in Santa Cruz County—a population that totals around 13,200, according to the Census Bureau—have access to local resources such as the Santa Cruz County Veterans Center in Capitola and Veteran Advocate Services, which is open every Wednesday and provides employment services and medical outreach to about 50 veterans per week.
But Egan felt there was something missing when it came to PTSD treatment. Last summer, she decided to do something about this. The result is Bridging Warriors, a nonprofit she founded that aims to help veterans, PTSD victims, and their families cope with this condition through free medical evaluations, ayurvedic treatment, group counseling, and various body/mind awareness modalities. The nonprofit will operate out of the RCNV and kicks off on Thursday, March 7 with a 10 a.m. Intu-flow class.
The organization was modeled after Connect Warriors, a successful program on the East Coast that offers free yoga classes to veterans, service members, and their families. Egan took the concept a few steps further by incorporating the volunteer services of a yoga teacher, doctor and psychologist in order to create what she calls comprehensive mind and body treatments.
Tim Woods, a licensed clinical social worker and psychologist, has been working with veterans’ groups since the 1970s, and will be providing therapy for participants of Bridging Warriors.
Before he can facilitate group therapy, Woods will individually screen participants with PTSD through four or five one-on-one sessions to get a sense of how they will fit in with the rest of the group.
“The first stage of every group is trust,” says Woods. “When you have that trust and you have that honest connection with people, they can go in deeper.”
Paul Hoffman, M.D, who offers both standard Western allopathic medicine and ayurvedic herbal treatments, will be providing medical consultations for Bridging Warriors on Mondays. He says that his role will be to identify holistic or traditional medical options for treating participants’ PTSD.
“Anything that can be done to clarify the cause of the pain and a solution to deal with it in a healthy way is useful tool,” says Hoffman.
Matt Harris, a certified TacFit instructor, will be leading sessions of therapeutic yoga, Intu-flow, tai chi, meditation, and other healing modalities for Bridging Warriors. Harris, whose mother was wheelchair bound and underwent years of physical therapy, found that Intu-Flow, which is a complete “rewiring” of the brain’s circuitry, helped her the most. He hopes that he can use what he’s learned to help others and change their lives for the better.
Rudolph notes that the modalities used in Bridging Warriors, specifically yoga and meditation, have personally helped him overcome his PTSD.
“The end goal [with] these practices is to be completely free of suffering,” Rudolph says.
Although she was unsure about how many people would turn out for the group’s first yoga class, on March 7, Egan says the effort has had an overwhelming response from interested volunteers so far. She adds that what they now need the most from the Santa Cruz community are donations, promotion, and, most importantly, interest from the veteran community.
“The biggest challenge for the success of Bridging Warriors is getting the word out to those who could benefit from the program,” says Egan. “Often, these people are isolated. Through the media, partnering with other like-minded groups, and fundraising events, the word will spread.”
Bridging Warriors intends to eventually offer services every weekday, and plans to host quarterly events to raise money and awareness. Initially, Bridging Warriors will be open all day Mondays, with the Intu-Flow class held every Thursday.
“I want participants of Bridging Warriors to come away with a sense of peace,” says Egan. “We are hoping to reach out to those who need help, and make participants feel comfortable.”
To learn more about Bridging Warriors, visit the Bridging Warriors Facebook page or email [email protected]