Murphy, Soto Applaud New Funding Intended to Provide $3 Million for UCF PTSD Program
WASHINGTON, D.C.-U.S Representatives Stephanie Murphy (FL-07) and Darren Soto (FL-09) applauded a provision in the 2017 defense appropriations bill that is intended to provide $3 million in new funding for the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) RESTORES Clinic, which uses virtual reality to treat military service members, veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The funding is in the advanced concepts and simulation budget – now increased from $27.688 million to $30.688 million – within the U.S. Army’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation account. The overall appropriations bill must now be approved by the U.S. Senate and the president before becoming law.
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy said, “It is our duty to take care of those who take care of us. PTSD affects too many of our men and women in uniform, and I’m so proud UCF is finding innovative ways to provide life-saving therapy. Congressman Soto and I are pleased to see increased funding to support those in central Florida who suffer from PTSD as a result of their service to our community and our country.”
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto said, “Congresswoman Murphy and I will continue to work with UCF and our colleagues in the House and Senate to find a suitable and sustainable new funding source that will allow this therapy model to continue at UCF and to be replicated across the country.”
Dr. Deborah Beidel, Trustee Chair and Pegasus Professor of Psychology and Medical Education at UCF and the Director of UCF RESTORES, said, “This critical funding will allow us to continue our innovative program, which provides treatment to military service members, veterans and first responders, many of who have no other options for care. Additionally, this funding will allow us to continue our scientific efforts to use advances in simulation and virtual reality to provide even more effective treatment programs in the future. We are tremendously grateful for the support of Representatives Murphy and Soto in securing this funding that can only be described as life-changing for the men and women who will benefit from the therapy that we provide through our clinic.”
The RESTORES clinic was established with a $5 million grant competitively awarded by the Department of Defense in 2011. This funding was depleted in 2016 and, since then, the clinic has operated with philanthropic donations. The UCF program, which has drawn national attention, uses a technique called exposure therapy. This technique utilizes virtual reality to return patients to the situations that gave rise to their PTSD. If done repeatedly, the memory of the event no longer causes as much anxiety, resulting in substantial decreases in PTSD symptoms.
Over 250 service members, veterans and first responders have been treated at the clinic to date. After this treatment program, 66 percent of participants no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, a success rate that is significantly higher than more conventional PTSD treatment therapies.
Congressman Darren Soto represents Florida’s 9th Congressional District, which includes Osceola County, as well as parts of Orange and Polk counties.