Army medicine does not wait, reaches out to patients 

10/24/2012 2:40 PM 

 Peter Slavin

In an effort to combat suicide and other behavioral health problems, the Army is going far beyond simply treating people in hospitals and clinics, Army Surgeon General Lt, Gen. Patricia Horoho told listeners at the 2012 Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Association of the United States Army.

“It’s not enough to wait for patients to come to us—we need to reach out…,” Horoho said Tuesday Oct. 23.  “And we are.” She said doing this was a way of overcoming the stigma associated with asking for help.

Horoho said behavioral health services are now being offered where soldiers and families live and work. They are being embedded into units as well as soldier- and patient-centered medical homes, schools, and communities. In collaboration with the Fisher Foundation, she added, Army Medicine is standing up 11 National Centers of Excellence, which will synchronize care of behavioral health and traumatic brain injury. 

In addition, Army Medicine is using social media and the Internet to contact soldiers and families.

Asked via Facebook questioner  at Fort Bliss, Okla. about what Army Medicine is doing to shorten the length of time it takes to get an appointment with behavioral health services due to the tremendous demand, Horoho cited several steps.  “We’ve doubled the number of behavioral health providers,” she said, bringing on social workers and nurse practitioners to join psychiatrists and psychologists.  Second, such staff have been embedded in primary care.  Third, emphasis on prevention has reduced the need for behavioral health care in the first place.

Horoho also mentioned a striking fact:  “We have had 80 percent of service members diagnosed with PTSD actually heal and return to duty,” she said.