Veterans sought for TMS program

Transcranial magnetic stimulation helps with mental health, addiction issues

Photo Provided DIRK HARKINS of Adena receives a transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus last week. Harkins is seeking other veterans for a TMS pilot program. Harkins, a U.S. Army veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury, says TMS helped save his life.

ADENA RESIDENT Dirk Harkins wants fellow veterans who need help with their mental health, addictions or both to try a treatment that he says helped save his life.

A free pilot program being funded by the state is getting underway, and volunteers who are military veterans are needed to make it a success. The Ohio Veterans NOW Project uses transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to treat veterans. According to the Mayo Clinic, TMS is a non-invasive procedure. It uses an electromagnetic coil placed on the scalp near the forehead to deliver repetitive magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the brain.

Harkins, who served with the 82nd Airborne in the U.S. Army, suffered a traumatic brain injury when his military vehicle struck a roadside bomb. He said the pills he received from his doctors to treat his injury eventually led to him becoming addicted to the drugs. With no end in sight to his suffering, Harkins reached out for help and got it at a TMS clinic in Texas. After a few treatments, he knew his fellow veterans in Ohio could benefit from the therapy.

“We’re on a mission now. … We need 30 veterans in the program,” he said.

Harkins said there is one treatment site now in Columbus at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Two other treatment sites are set to open Jan. 29 — one at WVU Medicine Barnesville Hospital and one at Perry Behavioral Health Choices Inc. in New Lexington, Ohio.

To learn more or to sign up, call 614-665-7905 or 614-293-4840. There is no cost to patients in the pilot program.

The painless treatment is used five days a week for six weeks. At first, the sessions last two hours and then an hour per day. Harkins said he now is in a professional maintenance mode and only receives occasional treatments.

Harkins said the veterans who already have started receiving the treatment are noticing a difference after just a week or two.

“They are coming in happy and refreshed,” Harkins said, adding the overall program also includes a wellness aspect.

Harkins described how TMS works by saying it gets one’s brain firing correctly again.

“When you can sleep well and eat well, it sets the tone for the whole day,” he said.

As for addiction, Harkins said there isn’t necessarily a cure out there for it, but the TMS treatment reduces the cravings a person experiences.

Harkins said in addition to veterans, TMS eventually may receive FDA approval for use to treat other issues including trauma experienced by first responders.

Harkins said his life has changed a lot since he started getting the treatment. He is back in college and studying about mental health so he can help others.

“I feel like God saved my life and this treatment was part of it,” he said.


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