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Combat Stress Conference 2012

Use link to the right for more information ->

Click here for complete brochure


This Combat Stress Conference is the longest running and one of the best of its kind in the world. It has been referred to by many who attend as the “Gold standard” of all Combat Stress Conferences. Throughout the years, this conference has trained both military and civilian staff to provide services to military personnel experiencing Combat Stress related problems, as well as problems experienced by civilian disaster workers and victims.

See below for previous media coverage ! ! !

Sample of media coverage on a previous conference.

“High-ranking military officials to attend mental-health symposium”
By Rick Rogers

May 3, 2007CAMP PENDLETON – Three years ago, the world's longest-running military conference on combat stress nearly folded due to a shortage of staff and funds.

It took a handful of retired soldiers, led by La Costa psychologist, and conference founder, Dr Bart Billings, to keep the event alive. The service members, although retired, organized and helped fund the annual gathering.

This year's International Civilian & Military Combat Stress Conference is generating much greater attention. As in past conferences, high-ranking officers are scheduled to attend, more workshops will be offered and, for the first time, military families can participate with no conference fee’s being required.

“It's become a pretty big deal. It shows, I think, that (the services) are getting nervous about all the bad press they are getting after Walter Reed,” said Dr Richard Lynch, a retired Army Brigadier General who supported the launching of the conference in 1993 after seeing friends and colleagues waylaid mentally by the Persian Gulf War.

Dr Lynch was referring to the Pentagon's acknowledgment of substandard patient care and living conditions for patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The scandal, which became public in February, led to the dismissal of several generals, spurred congressional inquiries and resulted in several ongoing investigations of care at military and Veterans Affairs hospitals.

“I think they also are particularly worried about the (health needs) of the reservists,” said Dr Lynch, now a radiologist at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Reservists are shouldering an increasingly bigger load of combat duty in Iraq. They made up 48 percent of all U.S. forces there last year.

The mental-health issue is getting a boost from other high-profile developments.

Today, a Pentagon mental-health task force will report its findings from a year of public hearings that it held nationwide. The panel was authorized through legislation sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.

Last week, the two senators introduced a bill to establish military medical centers specializing in mental-health conditions. These sites would spearhead research in that field, establish national treatment standards and train mental-health professionals to provide cutting-edge care. (*Note In September 2008 the DOD granted millions of dollars to the University of California, San Diego to spearhead and oversee other Universities throughout the US to do research on Combat Stress related problems.)

With the stars so aligned, this year's combat-stress conference is attracting an audience fitting its resurgent importance. The plethora of junior officers and civilian researchers who come to Camp Pendleton each spring, frequently on their own dime, will be joined by senior officers and lawmakers.

Reps. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, a member of that committee, are slated to attend the event. ( Note Reps Susan Davis, San Diego also attended)

So is Lynda Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy. The commandant of the Marine Corps is sending a representative. Psychiatrist William Glasser, a legend in the counseling field, will do some teaching. A doctor from the German armed forces will hold a lecture.

The major themes of this year's conference are post-traumatic stress disorder, other combat-stress issues and the importance of family support.

Parents, spouses and others desperately need information about how to help active-duty service members and veterans suffering from mental-health problems, said Beth Steinke of Ramona, national director for Operation Homefront. The nonprofit organization provides a wide range of emergency assistance to service members and their families.

Operation Homefront is paying the registration cost for 100 military spouses to attend two days of classes during the conference. The group's officials decided to spend the money after learning about what happened last year: Marine wives paid to attend the combat-stress workshops so they could better understand their troubled husbands.

“We are seeing (an) increasingly large number of families affected by combat stress,” Steinke said. “This is a perfect opportunity to get more education out there.”

The tackling of such critical issues is what has kept the conference relevant, said Dr Billings, the La Costa-based clinical psychologist.

For example, he said, military mental-health experts agreed during last year's gathering that their superiors weren't supporting their efforts to provide the quantity and quality of care needed.

Dr Billings considers it no accident that less than a year later, injured combat veterans went public with their complaints about physical and mental-health services at Walter Reed hospital.

“We've been successful because we've always been able to anticipate events,” said Dr Billings, a retired Colonel who works as the San Diego Area District Psychologist for the California Department of Rehabilitation.

Some conference participants praised its up-to-date and authoritative content. They include Dr George Everly, co-founder of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, which provides education, training and other consultation on crisis intervention, psychological trauma and mental-health crises to emergency-relief workers.

He has spoken at the conference for the past six years.

This event “is the gold standard in the field,” said Dr Everly, who is also director of behavioral medicine for Johns Hopkins' Homeward Hospital Center. “The people who come here have actual field experience. What makes this conference so powerful are the stories.”

Dr Everly mentioned the account of an Army major during last year's conference. The major said a mentally disturbed soldier slept with an arm that had been severed in an attack. The soldier got into trouble after hitting his commanding officer in the back of the head with it.

Another story involved an Army commander who refused to remove two soldiers from combat duty, even though they had suffered psychological stress that caused them to hallucinate.

“I assure you this conference will continue,” Dr Billings said. “It is a barometer of what is going on in the field.”

Concurrent Substance Abuse and PTSD Treatment Or Not?

Link above is to Webmasters talk about the pros and cons
of concurrent substance abuse treatment (see photo left).