Housed in the VA San Diego Healthcare System, the Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health (CESAMH) was created in response to the increasing prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other stress-related mental health problems in the wake of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA’s specialized Mental Health Centers of Excellence (MH CoEs) are an essential component of addressing the mental health needs of Veterans. Many Veterans experience mental health problems and some meet criteria for more than one psychiatric disorder. These Veterans may also struggle with homelessness, suicidality, and difficulties with work and relationships.

All VA MH CoEs have a singular mission: to improve the health and well-being of Veterans through world class, cutting-edge science, education and clinical care. The centers are designed to be incubators for new investigators, clinicians, treatment methods and ways of delivering care and education. The MH CoEs combine education, research, and clinical care into a single program, dramatically reducing the time from scientific discovery to implementation. In addition, VA MH CoEs leverage regional and local VA expertise as well as expertise from academic affiliates. They frequently collaborate with other VA centers, making it possible for a single site to conduct research and educational activities across the spectrum of basic and clinical domains that is necessary to fully address a given disorder.

Addressing the needs of Veterans requires specialized and coordinated clinical, research, and educational efforts. The VA CESAMH team brings expertise in all of these areas to collaboratively address issues related to PTSD and TBI. To further our reach, CESAMH has partnered with national VA and community agencies that have the infrastructure and lines of communication to make substantive changes in the lives of Veterans, their families, and their communities.

Our Mission: To optimize the well-being and functioning of Veterans, CESAMH conducts integrated neurobiological and psychosocial science to develop, evaluate and disseminate treatment for trauma-related conditions.

CESAMH develops, evaluates, and implements innovative and effective treatments for Veterans affected by trauma (TBI and PTSD). We aim to impact the whole Veteran, including individual and family functioning, quality of life, employment, and spirituality and mind/body connection. Ultimately, we hope to support psychiatric and psychosocial services that are easily accessed, proficiently delivered, and individually tailored to the needs of the Veterans and their families.

Specifically, CESAMH’s goals are:

  1. To conduct basic research into the neural mechanisms of trauma-related behavioral problems in order to develop and test novel preventive and treatment targets and strategies;
  2. To understand and quantify the neurobiological and psychophysiological mechanisms of symptom change and indicators of treatment response for trauma-related conditions;
  3. To conduct studies of risk factors and correlates of trauma-related conditions and symptoms in support of a neurobiological understanding of impaired functioning;
  4. To provide education and training to multiple stakeholders including:
  • VA Leadership and mental health policy makers (to promote CESAMH research findings and the implementation of new technologies, particularly as relevant to evidence-based and evidence-informed practices in the treatment of trauma-related disorders).
  • Clinical providers (to disseminate assessment and treatment that is informed by CESAMH research, as well as findings from other Centers and researchers).
  • Junior researchers (to provide training to develop talented and independent investigators
  • Community partners (to collaborate in enhancing the depth and breadth of mental health service available for Veterans in the community).

For more information please contact us at: cesamh@ucsd.edu