MIRECC / CoE
What to Know Before Participating in a NW MIRECC Research Study
What to Know Before Participating in a NW MIRECC Research Study
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ranks as one of the nation's leaders in health research. Every year, thousands of research studies are conducted at VA medical centers, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes. NW MIRECC conducts research that seeks new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent the following conditions in Veterans;
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), which is also called a concussion
- Chronic pain (post-concussive headaches) or other conditions that might start after an mTBI
- Gulf War Illness
- Drug abuse and dependence
- Dementia and neurodegeneration, including mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
- Pandemic stress
Research studies may feature the following kinds of activities;
- Questionnaires, interviews, or assessments of physical and mental health
- Blood draws
- Talk therapies, which may include psychotherapy or cognitive rehabilitation interventions
- Tests that measure eye responses to light
- Lumbar punctures, which are used to obtain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and which have been safely performed in the NW MIRECC for more than two decades
- Scans of the brain, including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, fcMRI, or fMRI), and positron emission tomography (PET or FDG-PET)
- Prescriptions for prazosin, a medication that may be useful for a number of conditions
- Wearing wristwatches or other devices that track physical activity or sleep patterns
VA Research Contributions
These research studies have significantly contributed to advancements in our understanding of medical problems and that have led to health improvements for Veterans and civilians alike. For example, the VA has:
- Developed artificial limbs that allow amputees to have more independence and better quality of life
- Invented the cardiac pacemaker
- Performed the first successful liver transplantation
- Developed the nicotine patch to help people stop smoking
- Played a major role in the development of the CT/CAT scan to view the inside of the body
- Tested new drugs and treatments for diseases such as AIDS, Diabetes, Alzheimer's and Osteoporosis
None of the advances in health care would be possible without individuals like you volunteering to participate in research studies.
What is a research study?
A research study is an organized activity to learn more about a problem or answer questions. For example, a study may test if a product, such as a drug or equipment, is safe and effective. A study may be done to find out what health care practices work best. A study may be done to determine the best way to treat an illness or how to prevent an illness.
A study may use a survey or an interview to understand health needs, problems, or feelings people have about an illness or their general health. Another type of research study is a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a medical study with people that will try to determine whether medicines, new therapies or new devices are safe and effective. In clinical trials, drugs or treatments are often compared with placebos to check the effectiveness of that drug or treatment. A placebo is an inactive substance which may resemble an active substance. However, it typically has no value to treat or prevent an illness.
Why volunteer to participate in a research study?
There are many reasons to volunteer to participate in a research study. They include:
- to help find a cure for an illness
- to help other people who are sick
- to help find ways to provide better care
- to help scientists find out more about how the human body and mind work
- to take part in a study that is trying to find a better treatment for a condition that you have
If you decide to take part in a research study, you do so as a volunteer. That means YOU decide whether or not you will take part. If you choose to do so, you have many important rights.
Are there risks or side effects in a research study?
Sometimes research procedures and drugs may cause discomfort and/or side effects. The questions being asked could make you uncomfortable. The risks and side effects of the research may not be known completely when you start the study. The research staff will discuss with you known possible risks so you can decide if you want to volunteer. If you do volunteer, the research staff will tell you about any new risks that they learn about during the study for as long as you participate in the study.
Before you decide to volunteer to take part in a research study, you need to know as much as possible about the research study. If there are any issues that concern you, be sure to ask questions. You might want to write your questions down in advance. The following are a list of questions. Not every question will apply to every study.
- Will I be told the results of the study?
- How do I end my participating in this study if I change my mind?
- Who will find out that I am taking part in this study?
- Whom do I contact for questions and information about this study?
- What will happen to any specimens that I give?
- Who is doing this study and what questions might it answer?
- Will this research help in understanding my condition? If so, how?
- What tests or procedures will be done?
- Will I have to make extra trips to the VA?
- What could happen to me, good and bad, if I take part in the study?
- How long will this study last?
- Who has reviewed and approved this study?
- Could my condition get worse during the study? What will happen if it does?
- Is it possible that I will receive a placebo (inactive substance)?
- What other options or choices do I have if I decide not to take part in this study?
- Who will be in charge or my care?
- Will I be able to continue to see my own doctor?
- Will I be charged anything or paid anything to be in this study?
- If I decide to participate in this study, how will it affect my daily life?
- What will happen to me at the end of the study?
If you do not understand the answer to one of your questions, ask the question again and ask the person to explain the answer in a way you can understand. If you forget the answers to the questions during the study, just ask them again.
Are there benefits to being in a research study?
There may or may not be a direct benefit to you if you take part in a research study. For example, your health or a health condition you have may get beter as a result of your participation in the study, it may stay the same, or it may even get worse. No one can completely predict the outcome of a research study or how it might affect you. The study may not help you personally, but your participation in the study may result in information that will help others in the future.
What is informed consent?
Informed consent is the process of learning the key facts about a research study before you decide whether or not to volunteer. Your agreement to volunteer should be based upon a clear understanding of what will take place in the study and how it might affect you.
Informed consent begins when the research staff explains the facts to you about the research study. These facts include details about the study, tests or procedures you may receive, the benefits and risks that could result, and your rights as a research volunteer. The research staff will assist you with the "informed consent form" so you can decide whether or not you want to take part in the study.
You should take your time when you read the consent form. If you have any questions, ask the research staff. If you do not understand something, ask them to explain it in a way that would be more meaningful to you. If English is not your first language, you can ask for an interpreter to be present when you are discussing the study with the research staff. The written and verbal informed consent information will be given to you in a language that you know. You can take the information home with you and discuss it with your family, friends, health care provider, or others before you decide whether or not to take part in the study.
If you decide to take part in the study, you will be asked to sign the informed consent form. However, the informed consent process is more than just signing a piece of paper. It is a process that goes on throughout the study. During the course of the study, you may be told of new findings, benefits or risks. At that time, you can decide whether or not to continue your participation in the study. You may change your mind and leave the study before it starts or leave at any time during the study or the follow-up period.
Who will see my records?
Like your medical record, the information in your research record will be confidential. Information will be given only to the researchers who carry out the study or to those who make sure that the study is safe and carried out the way it was planned. The groups of individuals who might look at your records are the research staff, the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the company or group funding the study, and various government oversight agencies. It is important for these groups to be able to look at your records so they can ensure that the study is conducted using acceptable research practices.
About the Institutional Review Board or IRB
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a group of people such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, scientists, ethicists, and people from local community who ensure that human research is well-planned and ethical.
The IRB of this medical center serves to protect your rights and your welfare before and during the research study. For example, the IRB makes sure that any risks in the research study are as small as possible. The IRB does not make a decision for you. The IRB decides, when approving research studies, that it is reasonable to ask people whether they want to be involved in it. The IRB also reviews each study while it is going on to make sure volunteers are protected.
In the VA, there is another committee called the Research and Development (R&D) Committee. This committee reviews the work and recommendations of the IRB and must also approve the research before you can be asked to take part in a study. This the VA’s way of assuring YOU that any study you are asked to participate in has been thoroughly reviewed.
What if I do not want to participate in a research study?
Your participation in a research study is a strictly voluntary. You have the right to say “no.” Your decision to not participate will not affect your VA health care or other benefits.
Before you decide to participate, remember:
- Weigh both the risks and benefits of the research study
- It may be helpful to speak with your family members, friends, or health care providers
- If you decide to volunteer for a research study, you can change your mind and stop or leave the study at any time without losing any of your VA health care or other benefits.
For information about specific research, please contact the number listed on the research study.
Veterans Integrated Service Network 20 (VISN 20) serves 135 counties in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and extending into Del Norte County California and Lincoln County Montana. VISN 20 is the largest geographic region of VA and home to 273 federally recognized American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes, 229 of which are located in Alaska. Encompassing 23% of the US land mass, VISN 20 spans three time zones over 817,417 square miles. VA Puget Sound Health Care System (VAPSHCS) and the Portland VA Health Care System (VAPORHCS) were commissioned by Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as one of the first three Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Centers (MIRECCs) in the United States. VAPSHCS serves Veterans from a five-state area in the Pacific Northwest with two main divisions: American Lake VA Medical Center and Seattle VA Medical Center. VA Outpatient Clinics and Vet Centers in Washington are located in Bellingham, Bellevue, Bremerton, Chehalis, Edmunds, Everett, Federal Way, Lacey, Mount Vernon, Olympia, Port Angeles, Puyallup, Richland, Renton, Silverdale, Seattle, Spokane, Union Gap, Vancouver, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, and Yakima. Veterans in Washington are also served by VA Medical Centers in Spokane, Vancouver, and Walla Walla. VAPORHCS serves Veterans in Oregon and Southwest Washington with two main divisions: Portland VA Medical Center and Vancouver VA Medical Center. VA Outpatient Clinics and Vet Centers in Oregon are located in Bend, Boardman, Brookings, Enterprise, Eugene, Fairview, Grants Pass, Hines, Hillsboro, Klamath Falls, LaGrande, Lincoln City, Newport, Portland, Salem, The Dalles, Warrenton, and West Linn. Veterans in Oregon are also served by VA Medical Centers in Roseburg, White City, and Vancouver, Washington.
VA provides health care for Veterans from providers in the local community outside of VA. Veterans may be eligible to receive care from a community provider when VA cannot provide the care needed. VA launched its new and improved Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) on June 6, 2019, implementing portions of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018 (MISSION Act), which both ended the Veterans Choice Program and established VCCP. Types of care under the new VCCP include General Community Care, Urgent Care, Emergency Care, Foreign Medical Care, Home Health and Hospice Care, Indian and Tribal Health Services, In Vitro Fertilization, State Veterans Home, and Flu Shots. Veterans work with their VA health care provider or other VA staff to see if they are eligible to receive community care based on new criteria. The VA Community Care Network (CCN) is VA’s direct link with community providers to ensure Veterans receive timely, high-quality care.
Vet Centers in the VISN 20 Health Care Network are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional readjustment counseling to eligible Veterans, active-duty Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Space Force service members, including National Guard and Reserve components, and their families. 1-877-WAR-VETS is an around the clock confidential call center where Veterans, service members and their families can talk about their military experience or any other issue they are facing in transitioning after military service or trauma and get connected to their nearest Vet Center.
Vet Centers in VISN 20
Vet Centers provide counseling to make a successful transition from military to civilian life or after a traumatic event experienced in the military. Individual, group, marriage and family counseling is offered in addition to referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services. If you can’t make it to a nearby Vet Center, VA offers satellite Vet Center locations and Mobile Vet Centers that may be closer to you.
Anchorage Vet Center (Anchorage, AK)
Anchorage Satellite Vet Centers in Anchor Point and Homer
Fairbanks Vet Center (Fairbanks, AK)
Fairbanks Satellite Vet Centers in Fort Greely and Fort Wainwright
Kenai Vet Center Outstation (Soldotna, AK)
Wasilla Vet Center (Wasilla, AK)
Central Oregon Vet Center (Bend, OR)
Eugene Vet Center (Eugene, OR)
Eugene Satellite Vet Centers in Florence and Reedsport
Grants Pass Vet Center (Grants Pass, OR)
Grants Pass Satellite Vet Center in Cave Junction and Grants Pass Mobile Vet Center
Portland, OR Vet Center (Portland, OR)
Portland Satellite Vet Centers in Oregon City, St. Helens, and Vancouver, Washington
Salem Vet Center (Salem, OR)
Boise Vet Center (Boise, ID)
Boise Satellite Vet Center in Ontario, Oregon and Boise Mobile Vet Center
Spokane Satellite Vet Centers in Couer d'Alene, Kootenai, Post Falls, Fairchild AFB, and Newport, Washington
Bellingham Vet Center (Bellingham, WA)
Everett Vet Center (Everett, WA)
Federal Way Vet Center (Federal Way, WA)
Lacey Vet Center Outstation (Lacey, WA)
Seattle Vet Center (Seattle, WA)
Spokane Vet Center (Spokane, WA)
Spokane Satellite Vet Centers in Fairchild AFB, Newport, Post Falls and Couer d'Alene, Idaho
Tacoma Vet Center (Tacoma, WA)
Vancouver Vet Center - Washington State University, Clark County (Vancouver, WA)
Walla Walla Vet Center (Walla Walla, WA)
Yakima Valley Vet Center (Yakima, WA)
Yakima Satellite Vet Center in Ellensburg
Veterans Crisis "988" - The Military Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource for all Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force and Space Force service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and Veterans. You're not alone—the Veterans Crisis Line is here for you. For immediate help in dealing with a suicidal crisis, contact the Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 then Press 1. You don't have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to call.
Call 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118
Call 080-855-5118 or DSN 118
Call 00 1 800 273 8255 or DSN 111
In the Philippines
Call #MYVA or 02-8550-3888 and press 7
A Veteran overseas may contact the Veterans Crisis Line via the chat modality at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat. If the Veteran prefers a phone call, they can request this within the chat venue. For TTY users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255. Are you looking for clinical care or counseling? Assistance with benefits? No matter what you’re experiencing, we’re here to connect you with resources and support systems to help. The Veterans Crisis Line is free and confidential. When you call, chat, or text, a qualified responder will listen and help. You decide how much information to share. Support doesn't end with your conversation. Our responders can connect you with the resources you need.
VA has a variety of mental health resources, information, treatment options, and more — all accessible to Veterans, Veterans’ supporters, and the general public. Explore the pages below to learn more about a specific mental health topic. Each of these pages includes resources, information on treatment options, and more.
Stories of Support
For Daniel, Don, and Jennifer, convenient video counseling made it easier to put their health first. Adjusting from military service to civilian life can be both exciting and challenging. Make the Connection
Dial 988 then press 1
Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Crisis Line is free and confidential. Support doesn't end with your conversation. Our responders can connect you with the resources you need.
Mental Health Updates
Explore the latest mental health news, resources, and real-life stories of mental health recovery.
Plan your trip to VA
In 1946, Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) was established by law to provide comfort and well-being to America’s Veterans. With our many retail stores, cafés and coffee shops across the country, we serve those who have served our country. Our Canteens are whole health spaces for Veterans to connect, relax, share and care for themselves in an environment that is their benefit. We are proud to Serve America’s Veterans and those who provide for their care.
VCS operates over 200 Patriot Stores in Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Centers nationwide. Many of our stores have been recently updated and expanded to provide our customers with a modern, clean and comfortable shopping experience. Our stores welcome our customers with wider aisles, wood-like floors, enhanced lighting and directional signage. PatriotStores have expanded hours of operation to provide service for customers on weekends at most locations.
The Patriot Cafe is the best place in the VA Medical Center to enjoy delicious, freshly prepared breakfast or lunch served hot or cold each weekday. Providing Veterans, their families, VA employees, volunteers and visitors a place to relax and enjoy a meal or take-out for their convenience. With a wide variety of food from traditional comfort food, specialized menu selections and a large assortment of healthy choices; there is something for everyone's taste buds.