Since it began full operations last spring, UNC's THRIVE program has worked with about 60 veterans to address symptoms of traumatic brain injuries — including sleep problems, headaches, dizziness and balance issues.
THRIVE was established with a $12.5 million grant from the Avalon Network. It is part of the UNC Matthew Gfeller Center, which focuses on assessing and treating brain injuries. THRIVE is located off-campus in the Carolina Pointe medical buildings.
The program's team of clinical specialists currently sees two or three patients with TBIs per week but aims to increase that number to four.
At the start of a patient’s experience with THRIVE, the patient participates in a “fishbowl,” telling the program's experts their personal story. Then, the patient sees 10 to 12 clinicians in Chapel Hill over three days.
The constant communication and coordination between the clinicians allow them to come up with effective treatments for veterans and first responders.
Jason Mihalik, the CEO of the THRIVE program, said that one of the key problems for people seeking medical help for traumatic brain injuries is that symptoms and remedies can be complicated. It takes a huge amount of time and effort from patients to see necessary specialists, but he said the THRIVE program seeks to streamline this process.
“At the end of two days, they've seen a year's worth of clinicians and really have a good sense at that point in time what their clinical health outlook appears to be, and that's been very powerful for the veterans,” Mihalik said.
THRIVE employs experts in fields such as musculoskeletal medicine, athletic training and pharmacology.
“There was one individual who was complaining of headaches and our vestibular (physical therapist) did a maneuver, and he felt immediate relief and just started sobbing. It was the first time in approximately eight years that he had not experienced headache,” Mihalik said.