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Statement of Edie E. Dopking, Ph.D.
President and Founder
Quantum Leap Farm, Inc., Odessa, FL

Good morning. I’m Dr. Edie Dopking, President and Founder of Quantum Leap Farm, a 10 year old nonprofit veterans’ service organization located here in Tampa, Florida. Please accept my sincerest thanks for the opportunity to present my testimony today. Quantum Leap Farm serves current and former military service members and their families from the current conflicts all the way back to WWII. We provide exercise therapy, cognitive/behavioral counseling, family reintegration days, and personal and professional growth workshops for military service members, families and groups. We use horses as a therapeutic tool and catalyst for positive change.

We’ve worked closely with the therapists at James A Haley VA Hospital’s Recreation Therapy Department for just over 10 years now. Through word-of-mouth referrals from our friends in Rec. Therapy, we also receive referrals from a list of other departments at James A Haley VA: Mental Health Intensive Case Management, Social Rehabilitation, Polytrauma, and Spinal Cord Injury as well as others. In addition we receive referrals from Bay Pines Medical Center and from family services centers located on MacDill Air Force Base: Airmen and Families Services Center, CENTCOM Family Services Center, SOCOM Family Services Center, and from various other local veterans’ service organizations. This fiscal year alone (July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010) we will provide services to over 850 military service members and their families, at a cost of over $469,000.00 to our organization (please see Attachment A).

Up until two years ago our friends in Recreation Therapy were judicious with their referrals as they understood we did not have funding to do this work and were donating our services entirely. In fact, we have never charged veterans of any conflict for any of the services we offer here at the Farm. During our 10 years of working together, only two small Recreation Therapy grants became available through the General Post Fund. Our friends in Rec. Therapy applied for and received small amounts of funding for us (approximately $2,500 in 2005, and $2,900 in 2008) to help cover the costs of services we were providing their patients. On several occasions Rec. Therapists have made personal donations to the Farm to help cover the cost of their referrals. Recently though, we were awarded a one-time-only privately funded grant provided by the Florida BRAIVE Fund and administrated by The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice. BRAIVE Fund monies are earmarked per the original donor for services supporting OEF/OIF service members and their families. This grant of $618,566.80 enabled us to expand the types of services we offer, the amount of services we provide, and the number of military service members we provide services to by 1,200 percent in barely two years: from 32 unique service members in 2008, to 850 in 2010. Unfortunately our BRAIVE Grant funding expires September 30, 2010. We are currently seeking alternative sources of funding, both private and governmental, and are exploring the possibility of establishing a contractual fee-for-service relationship with the VA and/or the DoD.

This increase in military referrals we’ve experienced reflects a great and increasing need on the part of military service members and their families. Likewise, it also reflects the great and increasing degree to which VA Hospitals are depending upon civilian organizations like ours to assist in healing visible and invisible wounds of war that our veterans and their families are so bravely enduring. The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are generating more catastrophically injured combat survivors than any other conflict to date thanks to great improvements in field medicine. The ramifications are good and bad, big and small, focal and widespread. VA healthcare workers are handling rapidly expanding caseloads of seriously injured patients - both the number and medical complexity of these cases exceeds caseloads VA medical professionals have managed before. In fact, our friends at James Haley Recreation Therapy tell us that each of their therapists are serving over 130 beds, many of their occupants with traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputations, spinal cord injuries and burns. And those are merely the physical injuries. Many of them also suffer depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have emotional and family issues to manage as well. Young families are facing a lifetime of care-giving for seriously injured family members as they struggle to raise children, work, maintain households and marriages. Not surprisingly, divorce and suicide rates are high in this population. Recreation Therapists are instrumental in assisting injured service members and families to successfully navigate the numerous and significant challenges they face post-injury. Rec. Therapists help injured veterans and families discover the new “normal”: helping injured veterans reintegrate into civilian life; reacquainting family members with each other after extended separations and functional changes; helping families learn to recreate together focusing on strengths, abilities and resources; and promoting healthy relationships and engaged, active lifestyles. Likewise, civilian veterans’ service organizations, like Quantum Leap Farm, are instrumental in helping Recreation Therapists do their jobs: helping a large and diverse population of injured service members and their families re-build and recover from war-related trauma.

Recently our attendance at the Conference on Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (CIAV) in Washington, DC, was sponsored by our military grantor, The Gulfcoast Community Foundation of Venice. Presenters included Brigadier General Loree Sutton, MD, Director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), and panels of veterans, care givers, and service providers - some of the nation’s most intelligent and well-informed experts on veterans’ issues. We participated in numerous workshops, attended informative lectures, spoke with legislators, met with various department heads within the VA, and networked with other service providers sharing our experiences working with injured veterans. Most relevant among several over-arching conclusions of the CIAV Conference: although there is much great legislation currently being passed to help our nation’s wounded warriors recover physically, emotionally, socially and financially, it seems very little funding is trickling down to the community level where it will do the most good. If we are willing to award multi-million dollar contracts to defense and other government contractors, why are we not willing to award similar contracts to organizations that help fulfill our nation’s promise of caring for those willing to lay down their very lives for our freedom?

As a nation we are in uncharted territory. The number of profoundly disabled veterans needing long term care and services is rising rapidly and won’t peak for years to come. The effects on our health care system, our economy and our American culture remain to be seen. However one thing is certain – we, all of us, owe these veterans and their families our unfailing support and gratitude for their inestimable sacrifices.

It is my pleasure and an honor to submit this testimony to you today. Thank you again for your time and consideration.

 

Military Statistics
May 2009 through May 2010

  Bay Pines VA Hospital
Recreational Therapy
Department
James A Haley VA Hospital
Recreational Therapy
Department
James A Haley VA Hospital
MICHAM
Department
Total of Military Individuals
who came for service NOT
Referred by a VA Hospital
TOTALS
Number of Individuals Served 51 297 24 477 849
Number of Sessions Provided 224 1,725 516 2474 4939
Dollar Amount of Sessions Provided $21,284.48 $163,909.50 $49,030.32 $235,079.48 $469,303.78


 

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