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Senate bill would provide free treatment to veterans with traumatic brain injury

A bill in the Oklahoma Legislature would make hyperbaric oxygen therapy available for free to any Oklahoma veteran who has been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and received a prescription for the treatment. Senate Bill 1604 passed unanimously out of the Senate. It now heads to the House.
by Silas Allen Published: March 19, 2014

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy places the patient in a chamber in which air pressure is raised several times higher than normal, allowing the lungs to gather more oxygen from the air. Proponents of the treatment say the increased oxygen levels allow the body to recover from injury more quickly.

The bill would allow veterans to receive the treatment at any licensed and equipped medical facility in the state. The bill would also create the Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment and Recovery Revolving Fund, which would pay for the treatment.

The bill is similar to a piece of legislation that failed last year. Lawmakers called the previous version into question, saying the science was unproven. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the therapy for treatment of brain injury.

But an Israeli study published in November shows the treatment can help improve brain function in traumatic brain injury patients. With more evidence backing the treatment, Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, said he’s more optimistic about the current version.

Allen, one of the bill’s authors, said the program would be funded through private donations, meaning it could be implemented with no financial impact to the state.

Retired Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon, the state secretary of military and veteran affairs, said she hopes the program would help raise public awareness of veterans issues. Helping veterans with traumatic brain injury with recovery could prevent a range of other issues, including substance abuse and incarceration, she said.

“We have a huge investment in the military in Oklahoma,” she said. “We have a huge debt to those who served.”

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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We have a huge investment in the military in Oklahoma. We have a huge debt to those who served.”

Retired Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon,
State secretary of military and veteran affairs

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