INDIANAPOLIS — Military veterans with persistent posttraumatic stress disorder could lose access to a promising medical hyperbaric treatment if the Legislature doesn’t extend a pilot program.
The program, approved by the Legislature last year, has been held up by coordination problems between the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indiana State Department of Health, officials said. Both departments have pledged to have the program running by July, State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said Wednesday.
However, the $1 million funding over two years for the program expires in 2019 and the program hasn’t started. If the money isn’t spent, it reverts back to the state’s general fund.
“Because we’ve had a delay in the hyperbaric oxygen treatment pilot program getting operational, we risk having a half-million dollars by June 30 reverting back to the general fund before the first dollar was spent,” Delph said Wednesday.
His Senate Bill 96 was heard Wednesday in conference committee, a panel of representatives and senators called after the House amended the bill and the Senate refused to give consent for the changes. A new report based on Wednesday’s hearing is forthcoming.
Last fall, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced it was offering hyperbaric treatment to a small group of veterans in a pilot program. Indiana was not included in the VA list.
Hyperbaric treatments are used to help wounds heal, treat carbon monoxide poisoning and provide care for other medical conditions. Hyperbaric chambers, though expensive, provide a generally painless procedure that increases oxygen in the body, under pressure, to encourage healing.
When the law was passed last year, the state health department was to select one medical provider, but Delph’s bill extends that provision to five providers to widen access for Hoosier veterans. The prior legislation required a veteran to undergo hyperbaric treatment within a year of receiving an injury; Delph’s bill removes that restriction.
His bill also extends the pilot program through 2020.