FORT SAM HOUSTON, TX, UNITED STATES
Story by Lori Newman
Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs
By Lori Newman
Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Brooke Army Medical Center offers a full array of behavioral health services to active duty military members and TRICARE beneficiaries through multiple clinics and specialties.
“Our behavioral health services are pretty extensive and customized to the different patient populations we see here,” said Army Maj. Lonnie Bradford, chief of BAMC outpatient clinic.
Services range from child and adolescent care, clinical health, multi-disciplinary behavioral health services, clinical psychology, neuropsychology, inpatient services and a residential treatment program for substance abuse.
Access to Care
Behavioral health services are embedded within all the primary care clinics in BAMC as well as the outlying clinics. Primary care providers work hand-in-hand with behavioral health providers to make sure patients obtain behavioral health referrals quickly to ensure patients have access to the care they need.
“We try to be in every clinic at every location to be able to offer services quickly and easily and take down as many barriers people may have by making behavioral health care accessible,” Bradford said.
BAMC has two Multi-Disciplinary Behavioral Health clinics for service members who need behavioral health care. BAMC Multi-Disciplinary clinic will relocate to 7E on April 20. The other clinic is on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston at 4178 Petroleum Drive, Building 3528R, near the RV Park. Both clinics offer walk-in appointments for military personnel from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Students who are enrolled in the Army Medical Department Center and School, and Medical Education and Training Campus programs can utilize Campus Behavioral Health Services in the CPT Jennifer M. Moreno Primary Care Clinic on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. The clinic hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“We have tailored our services and created a program within our clinics to grant immediate access to care for our most vulnerable patient population, our service members,” said Army Maj. David Keller, chief of Multi-Disciplinary Outpatient Clinic.
“Service members who feel they need immediate behavioral health support can walk-in to these clinics during normal hours of operation,” Bradford said. “The vast majority of the patients we see are self-referral. They can either call for an appointment or just walk into the clinic.”
The Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Health Program also located in the Moreno Clinic provides services for active duty personnel who need a higher level of care than traditional outpatient therapy. The program helps service members address anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts.
The Child and Family Behavioral Health Service at BAMC provides individual, family, group and medication therapy for children up to 18 years old, as well as family members.
BAMC also offers inpatient behavioral health services and an inpatient residential treatment program.
Bradford is one of two board-certified neuropsychologists within the Army. Neuropsychology services are available by consult from a referring medical provider.
Clinical Neuropsychology is a specialty in professional psychology that applies principles of assessment and intervention based upon the scientific study of human behavior as it relates to normal and abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. Clinical neuropsychologists address neurobehavioral problems related to acquired or developmental disorders of the nervous system such as dementia, vascular disorders, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, traumatic brain injury, seizure disorders and learning disabilities.
“Patients can also come into the emergency department if they feel they are unsafe at any time. The BAMC ED is staffed 24/7 with a behavioral health consultant,” Bradford said.
Benefits of Military Care
Both Bradford and Keller agree that seeking behavioral health services at the military treatment facility is beneficial for military families. Military providers have a greater understanding of the unique challenges that military families face, such as frequent deployments and moves, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
“The military is a unique culture and it has unique challenges,” Bradford said. “There is no other health care system that is comparable to ours in terms of scientifically guided treatments.”
Another unique aspect of receiving behavioral health services at BAMC is the fact that patient satisfaction is closely monitored. Each time a patient comes in for an appointment they are asked a series of questions to gauge how satisfied they are with their care and their provider.
“We monitor really closely how satisfied our beneficiaries are with our services, because that’s very important to us,” Bradford explained. “We don’t just want to be effective, we want to provide services that people will use and feel like they are benefiting greatly from.”
Another benefit to seeking behavioral health services within the military health system is the wait time for appointments in most cases is much shorter than seeking care in the civilian sector.
“The waiting period here at BAMC to see a psychiatrist on average is less than 14 days,” Keller said. “In the community the waiting period for an appointment with a licensed psychiatrist can be up to three or four months.”
Eliminating the Stigma
Service members are not required to tell their chain of command when they are seeking behavioral health services.
“We follow the same HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations that all health care providers must follow,” Bradford stressed. “Ethically we have to protect the privacy of our patients.”
There are cases where disclosure of something may be warranted, such as if the patient is threatening to harm themselves or someone else.
“In that case, we would disclose the minimum information necessary in order to keep the person safe or to take steps to help them out,” Bradford assured.
Bradford believes that having behavioral health services available within the medical clinics will help to alleviate some of the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues.
Keller agrees. “Including behavioral health topics in medical discussions as part of the medical treatment team shows all of our beneficiaries and professional colleagues that it’s an organic illness just as cancer or diabetes or other illnesses,” Keller said.
Another way to help eliminate the stigma of behavioral health issues is to have senior military leaders share their own stories and experiences, Keller said.
“The main thing we try to do is make it as easy as possible for our patients to receive the help they need,” Bradford said. “Access is very important.”
There are several resources available to military beneficiaries, including the Military Crisis Line, which is available 24/7 at no cost, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Military OneSource website, https://www.militaryonesource.mil/, also has several resources available to military families.
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