The Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) was first established in 1995 as the Gulf War Health Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, with a mission to care for Gulf War veterans with war-related physical and mental health challenges. That same year the Department of Defense (DoD) instituted the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program (CCEP) to provide systematic clinical evaluations for the diagnosis and treatment of conditions connected to service in the Gulf War. The Gulf War Health Center developed the tertiary treatment component of the CCEP, a three-week specialized care program for veterans with medically unexplained physical symptoms. The program focused on individual and group therapy, patient education, physical and occupational therapy, and alternative medicine.
The Gulf War Health Center was then re-established in 1999 as the Deployment Health Clinical Center (DHCC) – one of three DoD centers of excellence for deployment health, along with the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center and the Naval Health Research Center. The center was responsible for coordinating the evaluation of veterans seeking care for post-deployment health concerns using the DoD/VA Post-Deployment Health Clinical Practice Guidelines (PDH CPG), which replaced the CCEP in 2001. DHCC added a second track to its specialty care program for veterans with trauma spectrum disorders or significant challenges with post-deployment reintegration. The program consisted of individualized behavioral health and medical care, group therapy and psycho-education, and complementary and alternative treatments. The center also offered a one-week educational program for significant others of those experiencing deployment-related health challenges, initiated a significant research portfolio related to deployment challenges, and sponsored a week-long, deployment-related health care track at the Army’s annual Force Health Protection Conference.
In 2008, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provided a congressional mandate for the creation of centers of excellence for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury within DoD. In turn, DHCC became a center under the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE). The NDAA charged the center to implement plans and strategies for the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of PTSD and other mental health conditions. In 2012, administrative and programmatic oversight of DHCC’s specialty care program transitioned to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence.
In February 2016, DCoE and its centers, including DHCC, transitioned to the Defense Health Agency (DHA) from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. In October 2017, DHA completed the consolidation of DCoE and its centers and retired the DCoE brand. DHCC officially changed its name to the Psychological Health Center of Excellence to better align with its current mission to improve the lives of our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families by advancing excellence in psychological health care, readiness, and prevention of psychological health disorders.