Veteran with PTSD pitches for funding source for UCF clinic

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Eight years after his return from Iraq, Bruce Chambers credits therapy he received at the University of Central Florida for finally lifting the fog of war. As a result, his path in life has become more clear.

“It’s taken me a little bit to adjust and get on the right path since the military, being back from combat,” he told WESH 2 News.

Chambers was just leaving his Tavares home to drive two hours and talk to a fellow veteran who is also struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The father of a blended family with five kids, Chambers says he’s now able to see beyond the psychological gridlock he found paralyzing post-Iraq.

“Everything I wanted to do, I set goals for myself and now I’m accomplishing those goals,” he said.

Chambers is one of more than 250 veterans and first responders who received PTSD treatment at the UCF Restores clinic. UCF Restores employs a technique known as exposure therapy that uses virtual reality as well as group therapy to help patients cope with feelings of anger, depression and guilt.

UCF Restores started with a $5 million Department of Defense Grant in 2011. That funding ran out last year. Since that time, the clinic has operated thanks to philanthropic donations.

Professor Deborah Beidel leads the UCF Restores clinic.

“The work that we do here is vital to our community and we are so pleased with the results so far,” Beidel said.

Currently, there are companion requests for funding before the Florida House sponsored by Republican Mike Miller and before the Senate Appropriations Committee sponsored by Democrat Linda Stewart.

Stewart’s version calls for $1.75 million in funding annually for four years. Both measures will be considered when the session gets underway next week.

Chambers said he hopes funding is approved so other veterans and first responders, including those who worked the Pulse massacre, can find a way to cope.

“We have five children collectively, and I can’t get lost in the sauce with everything from the past,” Chambers said.