‘Ex­cep­tional’ pro­gram aids spe­cial sailors

Mil­i­tary, fam­ily mem­bers can get as­sis­tance at Pax River

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By SHERBIE KARDINAL Spe­cial to The En­ter­prise

What is a sailor, sol­dier, air­man or Ma­rine to do, when duty calls, and yet so do the cries of chil­dren or spouses who re­quire spe­cial care and re­sources?

More than 1.3 mil­lion men and women cur­rently serve in the U.S. mil­i­tary, ac­cord­ing to De­fense De­part­ment per­son­nel data. At least one in ev­ery 10 of those men and women are touched by spe­cial needs ex­pe­ri­enced by them­selves or fam­ily mem­bers. And yet, the mis­sion con­tin­ues.

The De­part­ment of De­fense Ex­cep­tional Fam­ily Mem­ber Pro­gram col­lec­tively serves more than 132,500 mil­i­tary fam­ily mem­bers with spe­cial needs, ac­cord­ing to a Fe­bru­ary

2018 re­port by the U.S. Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice. The pro­gram was es­tab­lished in re­sponse to the unique chal­lenges faced by mil­i­tary fam­i­lies with spe­cial med­i­cal and ed­u­ca­tional needs.

“If fam­ily mem­bers aren’t taken care of, then sailors can­not fo­cus on the mis­sion,” said Michelle Adams, coun­sel­ing and ad­vo­cacy su­per­vi­sor at the Fleet and Fam­ily Sup­port Cen­ter at Naval Air Sta­tion Patux­ent River. “The whole point of the pro­gram is that we don’t want any­one to feel alone.”

Some of the bur­dens com­monly shoul­dered by af­fected mem­bers of the armed forces in­clude fre­quent moves, ac­ces­si­bil­ity of ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­cal care; proper ed­u­ca­tional re­sources, avail­abil­ity of nec­es­sary ther­a­pies, so­cial stigma among co-work­ers, per­ceived lack of ad­vance­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and over­whelm­ing out-of-pocket ex­penses.

Sailors sta­tioned at NAS Pax River have a team of qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als to help ease their bur­dens, dur­ing times of tran­si­tion and cri­sis.

EFMP case li­aisons are lo­cated through­out the fleet to pro­vide non-med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and re­fer­rals, in­di­vid­u­al­ized ser­vice plans, and case man­age­ment from one duty sta­tion to the next, ac­cord­ing to the Navy per­son­nel com­mand web­site.

Gi­a­vana DiGiorno, case li­ai­son for Pax River, serves as a cen­tral point of con­tact that helps match ser­vice mem­bers from all branches of the mil­i­tary with lo­cal re­sources. For tran­si­tion­ing fam- ily mem­bers, DiGiorno de­scribes her ser­vices as a “lis­ten­ing ear,” or “help­ing hand.”

DiGiorno added, “I will spend my day tire­lessly search­ing avail­able re­sources for you so that you can con­tinue work­ing and pro­vid­ing for your fam­ily mem­bers.”

The pro­gram is open to ser­vice or fam­ily mem­bers who have been di­ag­nosed with a wide range of on­go­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions, in­clud­ing asthma, autism, Alzheimer’s dis­ease, at­ten­tion dis­or­ders, cere­bral palsy, cys­tic fi­bro­sis, clin­i­cal de­pres­sion, men­tal health is­sues, or even ex­treme den­tal con­di­tions.

Many sailors have been au­to­mat­i­cally en­rolled in the pro­gram as a re­sult of an overnight ad­mis­sion to a hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing an emer­gency room visit, or post-op­er­a­tive care re­sult­ing from an un­ex­pected surgery. En­roll­ment is manda­tory and re­quired im­me­di­ately upon the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of a spe­cial med­i­cal, den­tal, men­tal health, de­vel­op­men­tal or ed­u­ca­tional need.

There is no hos­pi­tal at NAS Pax River. How­ever, within the Naval Dis­trict Wash­ing­ton there are sev­eral ma­jor med­i­cal hubs. The ac­ces­si­bil­ity of spe­cial­ized treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties of­fers ad­di­tional med­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tional and ther­a­peu­tic re­sources, so that de­spite a po­ten­tial change of duty sta­tions, fam­ily mem­bers can main­tain con­ti­nu­ity of care.

The Ex­cep­tional Fam­ily Mem­ber Pro­gram aims to stream­line the tran­si­tion process, and en­sure that mil­i­tary mem­bers re­ceive the full sup­port needed to be able to fo­cus on their mis­sion, know­ing that their fam­i­lies are sup­ported as well.

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