Featured Member: Headstrong Project

Headstrong Project 

409 East 60th Street, NYC, NY 10022


Nonprofit help for veterans with post traumatic stress


Zach Iscol

Dr. Ann Beeder

Gerard Ilaria

Christopher Wilson

Evelyn Polcari

Year Founded

May 2012

Number of Veterans Helped


Organization Background

The Headstrong Project is a not-for-profit veteran’s service organization founded in 2012 that is committed to helping fellow veterans heal hidden wounds of war in order to lead full and meaningful lives.  Through its Cornell partnership, the Headstrong Project provides mental health care that is completely confidential, cost free, and bureaucracy free.

Beginning in 2012, under the leadership of Zach Iscol, a combat decorated former Marine officer and Iraq veteran of the Battle of Fallujah, and Dr. Ann Beeder, a leading psychiatric and public health expert, we launched a long term project to provide confidential cost-free, stigma-free, and bureaucracy-free mental healthcare to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Our model is veteran led and driven. Treatment plans are a collaboration between care providers and the veteran seeking help.  Veterans who have successfully completed treatment are part of the team, advising on veteran engagement, acting as peer navigators and advocates, and taking part in long term strategy development.  It is a cost free program for a number of reasons. It takes a lot for a combat military person to admit that he/she needs help, and Headstrong wishes to lower the threshold for entry to permit seamless and immediate care.

Weill Cornell Medical College was founded in 1898, and affiliated with what is now New York-Presbyterian Hospital since 1927, Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC) is among the top-ranked clinical and medical research centers in the country. Weill Cornell Medical College strives for excellence and operates through its tripartite mission of education, research and high-quality patient care.  The Headstrong program at Weill Cornell Medical College works out of 4 locations: the offices of Dr. Ann Beeder at 1163 York Avenue, offices of Gerard Ilaria, LCSW at 409 East 60th Street, the Vincent P. Dole Clinic at East 70th Street, and the Midtown Center for Treatment and Research at 56 West 45th Street, all in Manhattan.

What They Do

The Headstrong Project and Weill Cornell Medical College bring together mental health clinicians who are specially trained in combat trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  We utilize evidence-based, effective mental health treatments and protocols that can immediately impact returning combat veterans for the better.

Therapies and techniques include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; the two most studied and recommended treatments for PTSD. It can include substance abuse treatment, individual or group, at Weill Cornell’s Midtown Treatment Center. It also includes supportive psychotherapy, group therapy, and in some cases medication.

We employ an integrated and personalized treatment approach—no two treatments look alike.  We are also connecting the veteran to other necessary services such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) assessment, and referral to medical care.  We also connect the veteran when appropriate to other organizations that can help with reducing isolation and creating community through engaging with other veterans, such as Wounded Warrior Project, Team Red White and Blue, lAVA and Team Rubicon.

Finally, we serve families: veterans’ spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends, parents, etc. During assessment, when it is determined that there is stress on the family system, or if there is involvement and support provided by family, we offer support to the family member. This is done either individually or in a group.  We do not put a cap on the number of sessions or services we provide. Some veterans may utilize us in the short term, to return later if their needs change. Many stay and progress through therapies, working on a variety of issues on the road to recovery.

Impact of Headstrong in the Workforce & Civilian Life

Our clients often come to us extremely symptomatic and very worried about their safety, and their ability to function. Our tailored, client sensitive and collaborative approach has allowed our veterans to do extremely well, and cross many significant milestones that include employment, marital/relationship improvement and re-connection with the people they were prior to traumatic events.

Progress & Developments

This year we intend to add an additional psychiatrist and additional trauma trained social workers to meet the need for more treatment slots. Referrals from veteran service organizations like Wounded Warrior Project and NYU Military Family Clinic often carry diagnoses like TBI and multiple medical problems.

We need to increase our part-time psychiatrist’s slots to meet the need for psychiatric assessment for this more ill population. The demand for EMDR to reduce traumatic memory has been constant and universal. Additional EMDR trained clinicians will address this need.

Goals & Objectives

The goal of the program is to provide 60 additional Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans with evaluation and treatment for PTSD over the next year.

We would like to expand the program, which requires funds to meet our mission to provide cost free, stigma free, bureaucracy free PTSD treatment that is confidential and effective.

Future Strategies

The numbers are staggering. Over 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. The Veterans’ Administration estimates we lose 22 veterans each day to suicide.  The Department of Defense reports 30-50 active duty troops take their lives every month. Veterans with PTSD are at particular risk. It has been estimated that for every troop we have lost in combat this year, 25-30 take his/her own life.

The mission at the Headstrong Project is to replicate the successful treatment program in place through programs at Weill Cornell, across the nation to researched areas where there is a great population of veterans in need of mental healthcare. Some of those cities include San Diego, Houston, Chicago and Detroit.

Save the date for the Headstrong Project fall benefit October 19th, 2015 World Trade Center NYC !

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Meadowlands Magazine Staff

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  1. FontsDownloadFree 12 August, 2015 at 03:39 Reply

    The Headstrong Project works with the Weill Cornell Medical College to create mental healthcare programs designed to help soldiers deal with what the organization calls “the hidden wounds” of war.

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