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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Machine

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ohio — On this Veterans Day, we’re shining a light on the men and women who have put their lives on the line for our country.

When veterans return home, many of them suffer from PTSD. They struggle to get back to everyday life, and now, there’s a medical breakthrough that’s improving the lives of our nation’s heroes.

Senator Frank Hoagland is trying to bring it to Ohio.

Meet Dirk Harkins, an Adena veteran who served a total of 6 years in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S Army.

“On May 20, 2007, my Humvee was hit for like the fourth time with IEDs, and I had traumatic brain injuries,” he said.

That moment affected Dirk not only mentally, but emotionally, especially when he returned home.

“I was depressed and anxious at the same time. I just had a hard time feeling like I was fitting back in,” he said.

Dirk suffered from daily migraine headaches that, at times were so severe, he couldn’t even get out of bed.

A little over 5 months ago, he reached rock bottom.

“Dirk gave me a call, I think it was 7:30 a.m., and he said, ‘that’s it, I’m done, I’m ready to check out.’ Dirk was on the ledge, getting ready to commit suicide,” Hoagland said.

Hoagland knew he had to find a way to help his friend and fellow veteran.

“I mean it’s everything to me, the military, the veterans,” Hoagland said.

After talking with other retired Navy Seals, Hoagland learned about TMS, or Trans-Cranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy, a non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain.

It is used to treat a variety of disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction.

“It’s basically like hitting the Ctrl, Alt, delete button,” Hoagland said.

TMS Therapy is only offered at a treatment center in Texas.

Shannon Malish is the founder and CEO of Windmill Wellness Ranch.

“That form of therapy, coupled with what we do with the therapists, has been the missing ingredient in substance use and mental health treatment,” Malish said.

Malish says the treatment should last the rest of the person’s life.

However, if they suffer from a head injury or dementia, they would need to return for further therapy.

“Shannon gave us the numbers, and she had a 100 percent success rate for veterans, she had an 85 percent success rate for opiate users,” Hoagland said.

Hoagland worked with the Adena American Legion to raise $15,000 in one month to send Dirk to Texas.

“We needed to help Dirk out, and he’s a changed person today,” Post Commander Gary DeNoble said.

“After my fourth treatment, I woke up and realized something was different, it was way different,” Dirk said.

He noticed improvements in his mental focus. It was like a fog had been lifted and suddenly, he felt a sense of hope.

“My quality of life before was I didn’t really even want to live, now it’s a 10,” he said.

After seeing Dirk’s attitude drastically change, Hoagland began working to establish a TMS pilot program in Ohio.

He has since introduced legislation that would allocate the funding for this therapy to veterans’ organizations to help struggling veterans and eventually get them back to work.

“We’ve got $6 million in the budget that’s focused on fixing the veterans,” Hoagland said.

The legislation is being vetted by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the department of veterans’ services.

Hoagland says the governor supports it.

“Governor Mike DeWine and his staff constantly come to the office to make sure that we are tracking on this particular budget item in the budget,” Hoagland said.

The pilot program would operate for 3 years and focus on assisting veterans with substance use disorders as well as mental illness.

Hoagland will keep fighting in the state legislature with the hope of bringing struggling Ohio veterans back to life, like Dirk.

“To think I had to go all the way to Texas to get it,” Dirk said. “It’s a shame we don’t have it here.”

“Ohio needs it bad, they need it real bad,” DeNoble said. “We’re just losing too many veterans and too many police and first responders. ”

“A life saved is worth every penny of it and then some.”

Dirk is now pursuing a social work degree at Eastern Gateway Community College.

As for the pilot program, the two state departments are now overseeing the project and requesting bids.

Hoagland hopes it will be coming to Ohio soon.