June 11, 2007

Teleconferencing helps vets

When Indians' war duty ends, battle is just beginningToday, as thousands of troops return from combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the question for health-care providers and an aging generation of American Indian veterans is how to prevent history from repeating itself.

The approach gaining traction throughout the West and Southwest--home to some of the largest Indian populations--is this: Combine the most modern Western medical treatments with the most traditional Indian methods of healing. Marry the resources of the Department of Veterans Affairs with the blessing of tribal elders and respected medicine men.

Jay Shore is a V.A. psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Denver who specializes in treating Indian veterans with PTSD. Times and techniques have changed: Using videoconferencing equipment, he treats dozens of veterans on reservations from Montana to South Dakota--all from his office in Denver.

Shore routinely confers with a patient's tribal medicine man about treatment. He has gone so far as to fly to where his patients live in order to participate with them in "sweats," sacred American Indian ceremonies in which participants sit for hours in stifling steam lodges. The ceremony is believed to purify the mind, body and spirit, bringing peace and clarity.

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