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For immediate release – Wednesday, January 31, 2007.
Contact Bill Roach, Attorney General’s Office – 515-281-5536.

Funds Going to Vet Center’s “Healing Journey” Project

Des Moines.   Attorney General Tom Miller said Wednesday that his office will provide $18,000 from an anti-trust lawsuit settlement to the Des Moines Vet Center to create a program to help Iowa’s veterans heal from the psychological wounds of combat.

The money will provide Iowa veterans with an opportunity to complete a year-long therapeutic process concluding with a “Healing Journey” to the national veterans’ memorials in Washington, D.C. Miller will present a check for the project at the D.M. Vets Center Wednesday afternoon.

The money is a small, final portion of funds that resulted from allegations that Bristol-Myers Squibb illegally blocked generic alternative drugs from coming to market for its anti-anxiety drug, “BuSpar.” Iowa consumers earlier received $879,000 in refunds for their costs of the drug as part of a $100 million national settlement, and the State received $855,000 for its purchases of BuSpar.

“Some veterans are reluctant to seek mental health and counseling services even though the vets may have significant needs,” Miller said. “Experience in other states shows that the Healing Journey is an effective way to serve the needs of this group of veterans.”

Katina Mach, Team Leader of the Des Moines Vet Center, said: “Experiencing the memorials in the company of other veterans, and with trained mental health professionals, creates a unique therapeutic experience proven to be of immense value to the participants’ mental health and ongoing well-being. The Healing Journey provides participants with a unique opportunity to share their experiences and confront their feelings while paying tribute to their fallen comrades. We believe this process will help them move forward with their lives.”

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Background and Details:

Allocation of these funds is the final step of a multi-state antitrust case regarding the anti-anxiety drug, BuSpar. The states alleged that Bristol-Myers Squibb, the manufacturer of the drug, acted to prevent the entry of generic competitors so as to maintain its monopoly. As a result of the $100 million national settlement of the case, Iowa consumers filed claims and received $879,000 in refunds for their out-of-pocket costs for the drug between 1998 and 2003. The State of Iowa also received $855,000 in refunds for its purchases of the drug at state institutions.

“Thwarting generic drugs illegally harms consumers,” Miller said, “and it harms taxpayers, who often pay for prescription drugs purchased by government programs.”

“The Healing Journey”

The first “Healing Journey” was established in 1988 with veterans from Arizona Vet Centers. Since then, veterans from Las Vegas, Albuquerque, San Francisco, and San Diego have participated in similar Healing Journeys. The program, which organizers hope will be ongoing, is new to Iowa.

Access to the Healing Journey experience will be open to qualified Iowa veterans receiving services at any of the three Vet Centers in Iowa, located in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City. The centers will establish criteria for participation in the program. Veterans participating in the therapeutic journey will be required to engage in counseling for one year prior to the journey to the Veterans’ Memorials in Washington, D.C. The visit to the memorials will be staffed with trained mental health practitioners specializing in combat trauma.

Funding for the Healing Journey program will be provided to the Des Moines Vet Center through its fiscal agent, the Paralyzed Veterans of America Additional assistance will be sought from individuals and other organizations to maintain the program as an ongoing therapeutic journey for combat veterans who served their country.

The Vet Center program is a community-based mental health outpatient center providing mental health and readjustment counseling services to veterans and their families since it was developed in 1979 by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Vet Center program was developed in response to the need for mental health services for veterans, due to psychological and social distress as a result of their combat experience. Today there are over 200 Vet Centers in the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.