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 December 10, 2010

Command Corner

D6 AFAP update: Progress on behavioral health service, TBI care

By Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General, Installation Management Command

When I became the assistant chief of staff for Installation Management a year ago, I undertook an important responsibility: overseeing the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) process. This successful, long-running program enables Soldiers, Civilians and Family members to communicate with Army leaders about issues affecting their quality of life.

PHOTO:  Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General, Installation Management Command

When I assumed responsibility for the AFAP process, I made a commitment to ensure all recommendations are analyzed thoroughly to determine if they are achievable. I also promised to regularly check on and communicate about our progress. Following up on the issues that are so important to the members of the Army community gives momentum to the AFAP process and reinforces the promises made in the Army Family Covenant.

One of those promises is to improve Family readiness by increasing access to and quality of health care. Through the AFAP process, the Army continues to make great strides in addressing a number of wellness and medical issues, including issue No. 648, which focuses on a shortage of behavioral-health services. As a result of innovative and aggressive recruitment efforts, the Army had on board more than 3,900 behavioral-health providers, including psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and social workers, as of June 30. This was an increase of almost 400 health professionals more than the previous quarter, to provide the services Army community members need for treatment and recovery.

In addition, the Army’s Medical Command has established a new Tele-Health Division, which provides behavioral health services such as tele-psychiatry, tele-psychology, medical evaluation boards, mental status evaluations, tele-neuropsychology, and a school-based mental health program.

These real-time services are provided via video-conferencing through a network of 53 active sites across five Regional Medical Commands.

Tele-behavioral health services also are provided to deployed Soldiers and Civilians through e-mail exchanges in the Army Knowledge Online tele-consultations service. To date, the Army has provided more than 7,000 consultations in 41 countries and in 39 specialties, including behavioral health, through this service. This expanding array of tele-health services gives Soldiers, Civilians and Family members greater access to behavioral health care even in geographically dispersed areas and greater continuity of care when they relocate.

The Army also is making marked progress in addressing AFAP issue No. 610, which calls for the establishment of comprehensive, integrated rehabilitation programs for traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients at military medical centers.

To date, TBI programs at 37 facilities have achieved full validation, programs at 10 have achieved initial validation, and seven other facilities are in the process of being validated. Programs at four Reserve and National Guard projection platforms — Camp Shelby, Miss., Fort McCoy, Wis., Camp Atterbury, Ind., and Joint Base Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., have been validated — to better care for our Reserve and Guard Soldiers.

The AFAP General Officer Steering Committee (GOSC), composed of Department of Defense officials, Army leaders, and field representatives, determines the status of Army-wide AFAP issues. At the last meeting, held June 30, the GOSC resolved 27 of 40 quality-of-life issues and directed continued action on the issues mentioned above, as well as other issues of vital concern to Army community members.

The next GOSC will be held Feb. 1, 2011 in Washington, D.C. I will continue to hold review sessions in which Army staff experts report on the progress on their issues and I will keep you informed along the way, through updates such as this. You also can check on the progress of AFAP issues at any time by visiting the Army OneSource website at http://www.myarmyonesource.com, going to the Family Program and Services menu, and selecting the AFAP Active Issue Search feature. There you can enter an issue number to see a specific issue or enter keywords to find related active issues. You also can search by subject, demographic group or geographic area.

AFAP is a crucial tool for Army community members and leaders to communicate and work together to improve the well-being and quality of life for us all.

About 90 percent of issues are resolved at the local level, while the rest are elevated to higher levels. However, regardless of the level at which they are worked, all issues begin at the community level. Every issue is raised by a community member who has taken the time and effort to identify an issue and set about making a change for the better.

I encourage you to learn more about the AFAP process and follow the progress on issues that are currently being worked. Even more important, become involved in AFAP forums in your own community. When you see something that can be made better, take action. Become part of the solution for improving the quality of life for your fellow Soldiers, Civilians and Family members.

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