A federal bill that would begin a one-year pilot program to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and other brain issues — using new, high-tech but still experimental neurological treatments — has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, the first step toward becoming a reality.
The bill, known as the No Hero Left Untreated Act (HR 5600), was introduced in June by Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale). It passed the House on Tuesday by a voice vote.
The next step is to find a sponsor in the U.S. Senate.
“The Senate’s got to get off their duff and do something,’’ Knight told The Signal on Wednesday — adding that the bipartisan support his bill has received makes him optimistic the measure can land on what will be Donald Trump’s presidential desk early next year.
The bill, with 33 co-sponsors spanning party lines, plus various veterans groups, would establish a pilot program with the Department of Veterans Affairs to use a technology known as Magnetic Resonance Therapy (MRT).
Basically, MRT identifies specific areas of the brain that are out of sync or malfunctioning as a result of PTS or traumatic injury, and addresses those areas.
The technology was pioneered at the Brain Treatment Center of Newport Beach, which is affiliated with the USC Center for Neurorestoration.
Former Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Warren underwent MRT treatments at the Brain Center after suffering PTSD from his service in Iraq. Warren told The Signal that, between 2006 and 2007, he took five direct hits from enemy artillery, though he continued to deploy until 2010.
He also said he progressed from patient at the Brain Center, to volunteer, to its director of military programs – and to a big booster of MRT treatments.
He said that, among the estimated 400 veterans who have passed through the center since 2013 for MRT treatments, there has been a 68 percent reduction in symptom severity.
In his case, he said, MRT turned him “in two weeks from a raging alcoholic, getting arrested, to having a drink with a buddy and putting it down, because I was not feeling anxious and did not have to self-medicate.”
“I was so distracted by all the chaos inside my head,’’ Warren recalled. “It was like a fire inside my head, and I didn’t know how to extinguish it. Now there’s not a need to numb out and chase away my anxiety – and that’s what we’re seeing with a lot of these veterans.’’
Warren said the MRT technology basically provides a motion picture of the brain’s functionality the way an EKG can monitor a beating heart, compared to the static, snapshot way an X-ray merely looks an organ’s structure.
In the case of MRT, a 19-channel electroencephalogram (EEG) measures electrical activity in all areas of the brain, identifies trouble areas, and can help correct those areas by adjusting their frequencies, waking or calming them.
In short, it’s much more specific and quantitative, rather than relying on subjective diagnoses and treatments.
Warren said his EEG showed “a vast majority of my frontal cortex was in delta activity — deep sleep’’ and that that impaired his impulse control and emotional regulation, leading to self-medicating alcohol abuse.
Warren acknowledged there are still skeptics in the medical community to the new technology – mainly among psychiatrists and psychologists.
“We just need more research – we need more data,’’ he said, adding that a double-blind study is expected in 2017, after which the Food and Drug Administration could consider approving MRT.
But in the meantime, he said, “there are 20 suicides a day in the veteran community, and there is so much red tape to get the new technology out. Lives are at stake in the meantime.”
That’s one area where Knight’s bill can help, the congressman said.
“We looked into it, liked it, knew it had been very successful, and we said, ‘Why wouldn’t we push to get this into the (VA) clinics?’’ Knight said.
He’s hoping that if his bill is eventually signed by the president, the data collected over the year-long program at the Brain Center and an East Coast clinic can turn into another bill — putting MRT “into every (VA) clinic across the country.”
“We need to pursue this,’’ Knight said. “That’s what this bill is about.’’