A Chicago city council member is calling for a joint hearing to discuss two alternative PTSD treatments that have been shown to help prevent suicides.
The only barrier could be the cost.
Alderman Anthony Napolitano, a former Chicago police officer and firefighter, pointed out that 18 CPD officers have committed suicide since 2019.
He believes that two alternative treatment strategies can cure post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in officers and prevent suicides.
However, the treatments are costly and currently not covered by city insurance.
The resolution signed by Napolitano and two dozen colleagues urges three city council committees — Budget, Public Safety, and Health and Human Relations — to discuss the treatments in a joint hearing.
Napolitano said the treatments include ketamine and “stellate ganglion block” injections, which have proven useful in the treatment of U.S. military veterans with PTSD who are at risk of suicide.
The alderman said the stellate ganglion block injection was given to one of the commanding officers, who responded to the scene the night Officer Ella French was shot and killed, and her partner was critically wounded.
The officer paid for both neck injections out of pocket for a total of $2,000. Napolitano said the goal is to make the treatments affordable and covered by insurance.
“I personally know two people who have used it, both are Chicago police officers, both served in the military as well, and they both said it was a complete and absolute life-changing experience for them,” Napolitano told Fox News Digital.
According to the councilman’s resolution, stellate ganglion block treatment resets the “fight or flight response” to its pre-trauma state, and there are virtually zero side effects.
“A stellate ganglion block (sympathetic block) is an injection of local anesthetic into the front of the neck,” Cedars Sinai Medical Center’s website explained.
According to the website, the procedure works by numbing the stellate ganglion block nerves at the base of the neck that are responsible for the sympathetic nervous activity.
Napolitano said the treatment is remarkably effective at eliminating suicidal urges.
“In people who suffer post-traumatic stress from their jobs, these are the situations that cause a person to feel like they have, maybe, a suicidal urge or a feeling [of hopelessness that can lead to] suicide,” 41st Ward Alderman Napolitano told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Part of the problem is that the FDA has not yet certified the injections.
“It’s not completely FDA-certified yet, so your insurance is not going to acknowledge it unless we ask them to acknowledge it and have it as a treatment,” the alderperson noted.
Napolitano suggested another way to cover the costs.
“And [even if it’s covered], insurance is going to be red tape. Everything with bureaucracy attached to it is gonna be red tape. So, we’re seeing, can we roll this into our flex pay system? We’re still paying for it ourselves, but it comes out of flex pay, so you can pay for the treatment upfront, then pay that back by them taking it out of your check over the next 12 months.”
Mark Doyle, founder of the nonprofit Rags of Honor, has spent years with his organization raising awareness for stellate ganglion block treatments and raising money for them.
So far, the nonprofit has paid for 10 CPD officers to receive the treatments.
“We refer out for the ganglion block and ketamine all the time and see a tremendous response,” said Alexa James, the CEO of the National Alliance of Mental Illness Chicago.
“In some emergency departments in other parts of the country, they actually use ketamine treatment for folks who are coming in who are suicidal. It’s like a very fast-acting brain healer with very little side effects, if any. I’ve done ketamine treatment for my depression, actually. It’s incredible.”
James said that the city also needs to make sure its health insurance covers clinicians who offer mental health services.
“Current health insurance makes it challenging to seek mental health services consistently because, for example, the current health insurance will not reimburse couples counseling,” James said.
She also blamed workforce shortages for the lack of coverage.
“Because we have a workforce shortage to begin with, we receive calls consistently that it is difficult to find therapists within the network for police officers. The reimbursement rates … were actually decreased in the last several years. So clinicians are unable to afford to treat particular insurance coverage. One of those happens to be [the city’s] Blue Choice.”