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Army Short in Behavioral Health Care

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Army’s commitment to providing robust behavioral health support to soldiers is strong, the service’s top leaders have told Congress, but the Army is short about 300 providers.

In a joint statement provided to lawmakers at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing, acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley cited a decision made four years ago to transform behavioral health care by placing providers within combat brigades as an indication of the service’s commitment to improving access to behavioral health services.

“These embedded behavioral health teams improve soldier readiness by providing care closer to the point of need,” Murphy and Milley said.

However, the Army has only 1,789 of the 2,090 behavioral health providers needed to deliver clinical care across the force, they said. “The Army will continue to use all available incentives and authorities to hire these high-demand professionals to ensure we provide our soldiers immediate access to the best possible care,” they said.

Another priority to support soldiers, civilian employees and family members is the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, program. Under that initiative, the U.S. Army Medical Command ensures that every military treatment facility with a 24/7 emergency room has a trained and qualified sexual assault medical forensic examiner on staff.

“Our enduring commitment to the SHARP program strives to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment, strengthen trust within our formations, and ensure our soldiers are combat ready,” Murphy and Milley said.

A third initiative that remains important to the Army leadership is the Soldier for Life program, which supports successful reintegration of transitioning soldiers and their families into communities across the nation.

The program offers support to 9.5 million Army veterans and soldiers, Murphy and Milley said; another 374,000 soldiers are expected to utilize the program over the next three years as they transition out of uniform.

“The Army’s most valuable asset is its people,” the Army leaders said. “The well-being of soldiers, civilians and their family members, both on- and off-duty, remains critical to the success of the Army. Taking care of soldiers is an obligation of every Army leader.”