Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Coaches Ease Mental Health Care Transitions

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

March 2, 2010 - The Defense Department has launched a new program that offers servicemembers undergoing mental health treatment a bridge of support as they transition between health care systems or providers. InTransition provides this continuity of care through a network of transitional support coaches who offer servicemembers one-on-one guidance through a transition, whether it's a move or a separation from service, a health care official explained.

"The Defense Department is very familiar with transitions and how difficult they can be," said Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Frazer, senior policy analyst for the Defense Department's force health protection and readiness programs. "We want to minimize the hassles or stress or barriers to receiving care across health care systems or providers -- and ensure no one falls through the cracks."

Both active and reserve-component servicemembers are eligible to participate in this voluntary program when they're receiving mental health treatment and undergoing a transition such as relocating to another assignment, transitioning from active duty to veteran status, or veteran to active duty, or returning to civilian life, Frazer said.

Servicemembers can connect with this free, confidential service 24/7 by calling 1-800-424-7877 toll-free from within the continental United States. If overseas, they can call toll-free at 1-800-424-4685 or collect at 1-314-387-4700. Referring mental health providers also can make the enrollment call.

Once connected, coaches can provide information on behavioral health services, patient support and education and specialized coaching, Frazer said. They're licensed, master's-level or doctoral-level mental health clinicians with extensive military and Veterans Affairs knowledge, she added.

While trained to provide information on a variety of health-related topics, their primary goal is to connect servicemembers with care at the transition's end.

"The coaches work with them to motivate them to stay connected and engaged with that goal to be seen," Frazer said. "We don't want the transition to be a barrier in terms of continuing or remaining with mental health care."

The program was developed in response to a Mental Health Task Force report released in 2007 that identified a need for better continuity of care across transitions. But the ultimate goal is to take care of servicemembers, Frazer emphasized.

"We're excited to see this program roll out and make a difference," she said. "It's been a wonderful response so far. We've been interacting with servicemembers and leadership across the services and VA, and folks are excited that this program is there."

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