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$2 million grant from Lyda Hill to establish veteran trauma clinic, PhD emphasis

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs will vastly improve its ability to conduct research and provide clinical care to help military veterans cope with trauma-induced mental health issues, thanks to a $2 million grant from part-time Colorado Springs resident Lyda Hill.

Hill’s grant will go a long way, university leaders contend, toward bolstering the community impact and national stature of UCCS’s Trauma, Health, & Hazards Center.

“The remarkable vision of Lyda Hill gives us new opportunities to serve the needs of military veterans throughout the Pikes Peak region, to educate and innovate, and to make effective trauma interventions available on a wide scale,” UCCS Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak said.

The grant will establish a Veteran Health and Trauma Clinic under the center’s auspices. UCCS clinicians will begin seeing clients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other combat-induced injuries in early 2014—when the clinic’s home at UCCS’s Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences is complete. Many client visits will be subsidized and reserved for individuals ineligible for veteran benefits, helping fill a gap for high-need veteran populations.

The grant also will support a new Veteran Health and Trauma track in UCCS’s Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program, to be among the first of its kind when it begins enrolling students in 2015. Charles Benight, professor, Department of Psychology, who founded the Trauma, Health, & Hazards Center in 2001 and will lead the new program, will be the first holder of a new Chair of Veteran Health and Trauma, a senior faculty position funded by Hill’s grant.

With 18 percent of El Paso County residents having served in the military (compared with 13 percent nationally), UCCS is well positioned to increase mental-health research and clinical care for veterans. The clinic’s Lane Center home on North Nevada Avenue will emphasize evidence-based integrated care across health disciplines—enabling “one-stop shopping” for behavioral, rehabilitative, and physical health care, and overcoming traditional barriers between providers.

Under Benight’s leadership, the UCCS Trauma, Health, & Hazards Center has forged a strong and collaborative research group, receiving more than $3.9 million in federal grant awards from such entities as the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and National Institute for Mental Health.

“Around the Pikes Peak region, many people are working very hard to respond to the needs of returning soldiers and veterans. But the need is huge, and is taxing the available resources,” Benight said. “The grant is really a dream come true in terms of fulfilling my vision of empowering veterans.”

This is the second major grant to UCCS made by Lyda Hill, who in 2009 committed more than $1 million in funding to initiate the UCCS Teach program—which strives to prepare and inspire high-tech talent to teach science, engineering, and math subjects in K-12 schools.

Hill says, “UCCS has always had a strong connection with the community it serves. I’m excited to see the strides it is taking to make things better for individuals who have made sacrifices to keep our country strong and safe.”

The Lane Center, which will house the new clinic, will be the first building completed in an ambitious Sport, Arts, and Wellness Village that UCCS will build along North Nevada Avenue over the next decade.

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest-growing universities in the nation. The University offers 36 bachelor’s degrees, 19 master’s and five doctoral degrees. UCCS enrolls about 9,800 students on campus annually and another 2,000 in online programs. For more information, visit www.uccs.edu.