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Blue Cross and Partners to Host Combat Stress Conference for Minnesota's Health Care Professionals

Minnesota providers learn to recognize symptoms and treat returning troops

EAGAN, Minn., Oct. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- To address the behavioral health care needs of the thousands of Minnesota National Guard members throughout the state, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross), along with TriWest Healthcare Alliance and the Minneapolis VA Medical Center (VAMC), is hosting the first-ever Combat Stress Conference.

The Minnesota National Guard consists of more than 13,000 members who live in nearly every corner of the state. Since 2001, more than 80 percent of the members have been mobilized for active duty, serving in 33 different countries. In addition, nearly 2,600 Minnesota National Guard members completed their deployments to Iraq and returned home in August.

Nearly 350 community-based physicians, nurses, psychiatrists and other health care professionals that care for the troops have been invited to attend the conference on Oct. 17, 2007 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is intended to help providers identify deployment-related symptoms such as combat stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury, as well as providing treatment methods.

"Health care professionals need to understand the unique health care needs a veteran brings to them," said Chaplain Lt. Col. John J. Morris, Minnesota National Guard. "For example, a veteran may be depressed, experiencing nightmares and flashbacks, or have difficulty concentrating. We're asking providers to learn how to recognize the signs of combat stress and address those issues when they are treating a combat veteran."

"The onset of emotional or mental health symptoms is unpredictable. Symptoms can manifest immediately or take months or years," said Dr. Melissa Polusny, psychologist with the post-traumatic stress disorder recovery program at the Minneapolis VAMC. "Giving providers information about clinical combat stress is vital to addressing the mental health needs of our troops and their families throughout the deployment cycle. If providers don't know what to look for, they may miss a crucial clue of the kind of treatment a patient really needs."

Key conference presenter is retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Killing: The Psychological Costs of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Grossman's book explores the reactions of healthy people in killing circumstances (such as police and military in combat) and the factors that enable and restrain killing in these situations.

Additional sponsors include the Minnesota Psychological Association, University of Minnesota and the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

About Blue Cross

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.9 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

About TriWest Healthcare Alliance

TriWest Healthcare Alliance partners with the Department of Defense to do "Whatever It Takes" to support the health care needs of 2.9 million members of America's military family. A Phoenix-based corporation, TriWest provides access to cost-effective, high-quality health care in the 21-state TRICARE West Region, the 2007 TRICARE Region of the year. TriWest is a proud Corporate Team Member of America Supports You. Visit for more information.

About Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Treating more than 75,000 veteran patients, the Minneapolis VAMC is one of 157 medical centers in the country. It serves as a tertiary care referral center for the VA's Upper Midwest region with 237 acute care diagnostic and treatment beds as well as 104 extended care beds. VAMC also manages a network of eight outpatient clinics in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. For more information visit,

SOURCE TriWest Healthcare Alliance
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