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First Military Mental Health Symposium Set for Dec. 1

November 20, 2023

Natchaug Hospital is hosting Hartford HealthCare’s first-ever Military Mental Health Symposium on Dec. 1 to help support veterans and connect them with care.

The symposium will be in person at the HHC East Region System Support Office, 11 Stott Ave., Norwich and also on Zoom.

The event is open for HHC colleagues and also the public, including military and civilian healthcare and behavioral health providers and community agencies.

The symposium is important to Carla Schnitzlein, DO, medical director at Natchaug and one of the organizers, in part because of her experience as an Army psychiatrist.

“What I’ve come to realize is that Connecticut has a very large veteran population, as well as a robust active military community,” she said. “Sometimes there is not always a lot of awareness of the life cycle of a service member, from active duty to veteran. And there are questions about how we can support these service members at the different phases of their life.”

Among the challenges that Dr. Schnitzlein says healthcare providers are seeing within the veteran community include post traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders, and feelings of isolation that can lead to mental health issues.

“We can see PTSD in veterans who served during various conflicts and operations,” she noted. “And many veterans are struggling with what we are seeing happen right now in the Middle East, it can make them think about their time in that region.”

A goal of the symposium would be to work on ways to help support veterans across these issues and around the state, she said.

“We are deeply committed to the health and welfare of the people who have sacrificed for this country, as well as the sacrifices of their families,” said James O’Dea, senior vice president of Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network. “So, anything that we can do to support this group of people that support us so much is something that we are completely committed to.

“We know that there are particular vulnerabilities for folks in these roles, especially in regard to mental health conditions and substance use conditions and we want to make sure that we are providing the opportunity to catch those things early and provide appropriate treatments so they don’t turn into a larger issue,” he added.

Dr. Schnitzlein hopes this year’s event is the first of many on the topic.

The agenda for the day:

  • 8:30 a.m.: Registration Open (coffee and buffet)
  • 9 a.m.: Opening Remarks, Dr. Carla Schnitzlein
  • 9:10 a.m.: Soldier Story, Scott Hamby
  • 9:30 a.m.: Behavioral Health Fitness Standards in the US Army, Dr. Moravecek
  • 10:45 a.m.: The Granddaughter Who Witnessed the Survival of Normandy, Dr. Leah Russack-Baker
  • 12:30 p.m.: Emergency Room Treatment of Military Members’ Suicidal Ideation, Dr. Vanessa Green
  • 1:30 p.m.: Military Family Member Story, Tessa Harrington
  • 1:50 p.m.: Closing Remarks, Tom King

Register for this event & find information on credits at: https://hhchealth.cloud-cme.com/MilitaryMentalHealth_2023

Zoom Link for symposium: https://hartfordhealthcare.zoom.us/j/92601584070