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Veterans urge state leaders to take action on hyperbaric oxygen therapy program

$1 million allocated but 0 veterans fully treated
Nichols Colgin serving in the Army
Posted at 10:57 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 19:22:01-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana veterans are urging state leaders to finally get the state’s hyperbaric oxygen therapy program off the ground.

WRTV Investigates uncovered the program has failed to fully treat any Indiana veterans, this despite a million of your tax dollars allocated for the program three years ago.

Nichols Colgin moved to Indiana in 2018 after serving in the Army in Afghanistan.

He has a traumatic brain injury and is one of thousands of Indiana veterans suffering from PTSD or a traumatic brain injury.

“I couldn't spell my own name, I couldn't walk without a cane, I could barely speak,” said Colgin. “I had to have years of physical therapy, cognitive therapy."

In 2018, Colgin heard about the state’s new hyperbaric oxygen therapy program and emailed several state senators, but never heard back.

"I just hit a lot of dead ends, and it was just unfortunate,” said Colgin.

Colgin still suffers as a result of his traumatic brain injury.

"My headaches are worse than ever,” said Colgin. “I'm dealing with a lot of issues related to my brain injury even today."

The state legislature appropriated $1 million during the fiscal year 2018-19 biennium for the hyperbaric oxygen therapy program for veterans.

But WRTV Investigates has uncovered only $272,000 of the $1 million has actually been spent.

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State leaders say COVID-19 was a big factor in the program not getting off the ground.

Two bills are now moving forward in the state legislature that would extend the hyperbaric oxygen therapy program for veterans through June 2025, including Senate Bill 91 authored by Sen. Jim Tomes.

“It’s a fair amount of money that has been spent, and we still haven’t had a veteran who has completed the program,” said Tomes. “That’s what bothers me about this.”

The bill is currently in the senate appropriations committee.

“If this bill passes which I think it will, we will actually be able to launch it for the first time,” said Tomes. “This is like the third or fourth year for this."

“It’s just a matter of time in getting the program moving,” said Brigadier General James Bauerle.

Bauerle is leading the effort to keep the program going.

Right now, Clark Memorial Hospital in southern Indiana is the only facility in the state doing the hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the state program, but Bauerle is looking to greatly increase the number of facilities.

"You’ve got to be close to home,” said Bauerle. “You need family and friends need to make sure you get there, maybe even drive you. Some of these people are in such bad shape they don't even drive."

Bauerle hopes the $728,000 remaining in the program will help at least 100 veterans get treatment.

Tomes said his legislation removes barriers for facilities to participate in the program.

“Now it’s been opened up to anyone who can offer up, so maybe someone can have it in their hometown and that’s the idea of this bill,” said Tomes. “Make it available to any facility that’s willing to offer it and can offer it.”

Nicholas Colgin reached out to WRTV Investigates for help, and we connected him with General Bauerle, who is helping him get into the state program.

"The fact that someone is talking to me, and there is movement is a step in the right direction,” said Colgin.

Purdue University performs MRI scans and studies the participants.

WRTV Investigates checked with Purdue University and a spokesperson told us they spent a chunk of the money to "facilitate development and testing of the advanced MRI sequences to be used in the study, analysis of images and study data, payment for MRI scans of study participants, and reimbursement to participants for travel expenses."

If you or a veteran you know is interested in the state’s program, you can contact Arthur Terlap at purduehbot@gmail.com.

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