Fort Carson has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to increase art therapy offerings at the base.
The money will go toward hiring a full-time, licensed creative art therapist to develop visual art and music therapy programs for service members dealing with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Commander Renee Pazdan, a trained neurologist, runs the Warrior Recovery Center at the Mountain Post, which specializes in treating traumatic brain injuries. She says art therapy can be a powerful tool.
"Many of our therapies are very verbally focused," she explains. "Not everybody can verbalize their thoughts, their feelings, into words. So sometimes the visual expression or creative expression allows individuals to start addressing these things in a less threatening or more approachable format for them."
Commander Pazdan says the base already offers art therapy to some service members through the Warrior Recovery Center's Integrative Rehabilitation Outpatient Course (iROC). But she expects the NEA grant will "take [the art therapy program] from serving dozens per year to hopefully hundreds per year." She says she expects the new creative arts therapist to be hired sometime this summer.
Fort Carson joins 10 other military sites around the country taking part in the NEA's "Creative Forces" initiative. The initiative began in 2011 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE).
NEA Spokeswoman Victoria Hutter says the program has been successful in helping service members with TBI and PTSD.
"In fact," she says, "85% of those surveyed at the NICoE said that the arts program was very important to their recovery."
Hutter also says that participants in Creative Forces have gone on to continue making art after completing the program.
The NEA grant to Fort Carson will also include money to help "establish local military community/networks that than help service members and veterans transition from clinic-based creative arts therapies to arts activities in their communities," according to an NEA press release.
Neither Fort Carson nor the NEA would comment on how President Trump’s proposed budget blueprint, which looks to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, would impact the program.