UF Health Jacksonville and one of the nation’s premiere institutions dedicated to helping veterans, first responders and their families — the Gary Sinise Foundation — are now working together to bring comprehensive brain health care to Northeast Florida.
The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network will help UF Health provide transformative care to veterans and first responders experiencing post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse.
The new UF Health program is also getting a boost from the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation, which has donated $250,000 to help start the transformative effort in the region, home to one of the largest military populations in the country, including Naval Station Mayport and Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network will expand on the Marcus Institute for Brain Health’s and Boulder Crest Foundation’s expertise and successes to create a nationwide, integrative traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress treatment and training network. By leveraging the science of post-traumatic growth — a framework that explains the positive transformation that can occur following trauma — the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network will empower veterans and first responders to cope with, and overcome, trauma and in doing so, transforms lives.
“It’s undeniable that the military has incredibly deep roots in our community, and this collaboration will give us the ability to help veterans and others who may be struggling with debilitating conditions,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. “We’re incredibly grateful that the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network and Jaguars Foundation are giving us the opportunity and resources to provide this life-changing care to our heroes and patients in need.”
The UF Health Brain Wellness Program – Jacksonville will serve military veterans suffering from invisible wounds of war, specifically mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse. The program will also serve non-veterans, helping subsidize the cost of care for veterans.
The new collaboration is made possible through a generous $12.5 million grant to UF Health Jacksonville from the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network. The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network’s mission is scaling the proven approaches designed at the MIBH and Boulder Crest to establish 20 treatment sites nationwide to serve thousands of veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.
“When I formed the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011, it was rooted in a personal mission to provide support, raise spirits and improve the mental wellness of our nation’s heroes and their families,” said Gary Sinise, the Foundation’s Founder and Chairman. “Always wanting to do more, as the foundation approaches its 10th anniversary this June, I am proud to announce the launch of the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network. This cognitive health and mental wellness network will further expand our services to veterans and first responders experiencing post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse to help heal the invisible wounds afflicting too many of our veterans and first responders, transforming struggle into strength, and lifelong post-traumatic growth.”
Gary Sinise proudly joins together with the co-founders of The Home Depot and renowned philanthropists Bernie Marcus and Arthur M. Blank, who each invested $20 million from their personal foundations to lay the groundwork for the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network. Both are motivated to improve and expand upon the care provided to veterans and first responders, and the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network marks the first time that Bernie Marcus and Arthur M. Blank have partnered together since co-founding The Home Depot.
“We are very excited to add UF Health Jacksonville to our national network of centers treating veterans and their families. Our nation’s veterans have put their lives on the line and we are building this network for them. It’s the least we can do to honor their service,” said Bernie Marcus.
During their time on the battlefield, thousands of service men and women are affected by post-traumatic stress and/or suffer traumatic brain injuries, and when they return home, they may struggle with symptoms such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse. The UF Health Brain Wellness Program will deliver comprehensive mind, body and spirit solutions to address those needs and those of others throughout the region.
The UF Health Brain Wellness Program will be an interdisciplinary effort that uses intensive outpatient treatment led by a comprehensive team of behavioral neurologists, physical therapists, neuropsychologists, case managers and integrative therapists, using programs including healing arts, equine therapy, pet therapy, yoga, sleep analysis and more. This model has been shown to have tremendous success in healing patients when they return home, and our mission is to replicate that here in Northeast Florida.
Construction of the new treatment center on the UF Health Jacksonville campus is underway, and UF Health expects to open the program later this year.