Post traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) are two of the most prevalent injuries suffered by members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The effects of these injuries can inhibit a vibrant quality of life during and after service (the suicide rate for veterans is anywhere between 17-24 deaths per day). There are traditional routes veterans can take for help, which may involve surgeries and pharmaceuticals, but is there a better solution?
This was the conundrum that inspired Jill and Brian Crist to start the Coastal Authority Care Foundation, which helps veterans cover high out-of-pockets costs for treating service-related injuries with alternative therapies. And it all started with their own experience.
Coastal Authority Care Foundation Started at Home
Brian Crist (pictured above and to the left) is a Navy SEAL. After 24 years in service, he retired and started to experience anxiety and sleeplessness. Those symptoms progressed and compounded over time. He discovered he had mTBI and sought medical treatment which included surgeries and medication, but he was left feeling drugged.
One evening, the Crists had dinner with a fellow veteran who had similar symptoms but was in the process of recovering after seeking hyperbaric oxygen therapy and neurostimulation and neurofeedback treatments. Brian Crist decided to seek the same treatment, and two weeks and $12,000 later, he was almost doubling his sleep and showing improvement every day.
“He actually had hope he was going to get better,” Jill Crist said. “He was losing hope. Insurance didn’t pay for these treatments; outside nonprofits didn’t pay for the therapy we were looking at. These therapies turned his health and life around.”
From there, Crist founded Coastal Authority Care Foundation in 2015.
How Coastal Authority Care Foundation Supports Veterans
Coastal Authority Care Foundation provides grants to Hampton Roads veterans who are seeking hyperbaric oxygen therapy and neurotherapy for mTBI and PTSD. Hyperbaric oxygen treatments increase the amount of oxygen your bloodstream can carry, which helps muscles and tissues recover and heal, while neurotherapy and neurofeedback can identify parts of the brain that aren’t working so stimulation can be applied to help cells start correctly firing.
“I called Hampton Roads Hyperbaric and I said, ‘I want to give you money to treat these guys,’” Crist said. “Hampton Roads Hyperbaric has treated hundreds of veterans. Not one veteran they’ve treated has committed suicide.”
The treatment is there, but then comes the hardest part: asking for help.
“Special operators are tough guys, they think someone else needs the help before they do,” Crist said. “They’re reluctant to come forward.”
Another barrier to treatment is time. A veteran going through a hyperbaric therapy regime may be prescribed 40 sessions. That’s 90 minutes a session. Five days a week. For two months. But the proof is in the pudding.
“It actually heals the brain,” Crist said. “Look at the scans before where there are holes in the brain. That’s showing a lack of blood flow. After treatment, those holes have closed because there are new blood vessels that have formed.”
Coastal Authority Care Foundation awarded its first grants in 2019, awarding $4,750 to six veterans seeking treatment. By 2020 and 2021, that number jumped up to $10,300 (two veterans) and $11,000 (four veterans) respectively, but by 2022, things really took off— totaling $40,000 in grants and serving 11 veterans.
Virginia recently passed SB 1082, which allows the Department of Veteran Services to contract with any hyperbaric clinic providing 100% oxygen in FDA-approved chambers to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries. This legislation and fundraising events like Band Aid are helping to increase access and remove barriers for veterans in need of support.