• Florida lawmakers working to get veterans access to alternative treatments such as acupuncture

    By: Michael Yoshida, Action News Jax

    Updated:

    There’s a push to make it easier for Florida veterans to get access to “alternative treatments” for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and other injuries.

    The treatments include things like acupuncture, equine therapy, music therapy and meditation.

    They're included in two bills introduced by Florida lawmakers.

    Action News Jax spoke with veterans who are already benefiting from this form of treatment.

    “You know it took me years to even talk about my problems,” said Army veteran Chad Childers.

    Childers, an Army Ranger, was medically discharged after deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    “I tried to cope with my issues by drinking and ended up out on the streets,” Childers said.

    Childers eventually found his way to the Five Star Veterans Center.

    “When they first brought up doing art therapy, I’m like 'uh, what’s this cheeseball stuff? I’m not, you know, in elementary school anymore,' but I went to it and I actually had a great time,” Childers said.

    Along with traditional counseling, Childers said he’s benefited from massage and art therapy.

    Trish Barton, director of counseling at Five Star Veterans Center, said about half of their veterans use “alternative treatments.” Barton said they “live more in the present moment instead of worrying about the future or thinking about the past.”

    Army veteran Raymond Chait said it helps “to be able to kind of work outside the box and show what we feel and think and be able to show that on paper.”

    Alternative therapy also includes things like animal therapy, yoga and meditation.

    Barton says it ”helps a person become more in control of their emotions, it helps reduce the stress in their bodies.”

    “It’s very hard being a macho guy. You know, you’re combat veteran, to be able even put yourself out there and talk about your issues. I feel like it’s really helping my mind, body and soul,” Childers said.

    Army Veteran Ruben Cancel knows about the scars of war. He was deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “After you go to war … it changes,” Cancel said.

    Cancel said after serving, he started drinking to help deal with his PTSD and traumatic brain injury. After run-ins with the law, Cancel found his way to the Five Star Veterans Center. Along with traditional counseling, Cancel said he’s been helped by alternative treatments like massage therapy.

    “I been through war and training with the military and I was scared to a do a massage,” Cancel said.

    But Cancel tried it and says it helped physically and mentally.

    “I’m taking so much medication for my seizures, my PTSD and TBI and if it’s something that’s going to help me move back from the medications, oh I’m going to do it,” Cancel said.

    Barton said “as a person learns to calm their body, then they aren’t going to reach for the additional pill, they’re in control again.”

    A control Cancel said he's found.

    “The last time I drank was June 5, 2015, thank God,” Cancel said.

    It's something he can’t wait to share with his family.

    “I can’t wait to show that to my kids, you know, the different me. I can’t wait to show them that. They never got to see the real me and this time they’re going to see the real me," Cancel said. 

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