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Veterans, advocates pitch PTSD bill to save lives

Boston Herald - 7/11/2019

Jul. 11--Legislators and the close friend of a family who lost their 16-year-old daughter to suicide are pitching their bill today at a State House hearing -- as they look for a "magic pill" to help those facing mental-health and post-traumatic stress disorder battles.

Supporters of the legislation, "An Act establishing a Commission on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," say they want to bring together medical experts and others to address mental health and find effective treatments for PTSD -- saving veterans, first responders, teenagers and others.

"Hopefully something will finally get done and we'll come up with a cure, a magic pill that's going to make a difference and save lives," said John MacDonald, a veteran who worked with Dracut Rep. Colleen Garry on the bill.

"People need to know they have support, and that they're needed and wanted in this world," he added. "Too often, they come back from combat and have that feeling of worthlessness. We need to change that."

Advocates for the bill say they hope this legislation can improve the public's awareness of PTSD, so others can recognize when there's a serious problem.

MacDonald's daughter was close friends with Anna Aslanian, the 16-year-old Lowell girl who took her own life last year after getting bullied in school. Anna suffered through a form of PTSD, he said.

"I've started to really realize how much PTSD does affect kids," MacDonald said. "We need to help these kids who are suffering from a real disorder and save their lives."

Under the proposed bill, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services would establish a PTSD Commission. It would consist of about 20 experts, including from: Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University PTSD Research Laboratory, Secretary of Massachusetts Veterans' Affairs, Department of Children and Families, New England Police Benevolent Association, and Jane Doe, Inc.

The commission would annually provide recommendations on how to advance PTSD research, improve the treatment of PTSD, improve public awareness and recognition of PTSD, improve the early and accurate diagnosis of PTSD, and more.

"We need to get all these medical experts together and start talking to one another about this, so we can find a quicker path to effective treatment and cures," MacDonald said.

The legislation would not cost the state anything, he added.

Today's hearing is in front of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery in Room A-1.


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