Identifying and Addressing Mental and Behavioral Health Needs for Military Families and Retirees

Summertime offers multiple opportunities to reflect added focus on mental health; May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has designated June as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month. The Department established an online resource, About Face, which provides support for veterans suffering from PTSD and resources for family members of affected veterans.

Active duty troops and retirees face unique challenges as a result of their service to the country. They may endure “hidden” injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that are not always immediately apparent.

As recipients of the TRICARE Prime benefit, members of the US Family Health Plan have access to a range of mental health care and support services. Our member organizations assist military families and retirees in identifying and managing their conditions and ensuring they receive proper and sustained care.
Available mental and behavioral health services within the US Family Health Plan and TRICARE Prime include:

  • Assistance helping members find the right providers to meet their behavioral health needs
  • Behavioral health services specifically for children of USFHP members
  • Assistance in making appointments with behavioral health specialists
  • Follow-up calls after inpatient stays

DoSomething.org has extensive information about the stress-related mental health issues following deployment, including PTSD. These issues can impact service members’ and veterans’ well-being and quality of life as well as that of their families:

  • Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are the most common mental health problems faced by returning troops.
  • The most common symptoms of PTSD include: difficulty concentrating, lack of interest/apathy, feelings of detachment, loss of appetite, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, and sleep disturbances.
  • 30% of service members develop mental health conditions within 3 to 4 months of being home.

With greater awareness and understanding afforded to members of the military family, those suffering from “hidden” injuries can have a shorter walk on the road to recovery.

 

Celebrating National Nurses Week with US Family Health Plan

National Nurses Week, which began May 6, honors the compassion nurses provide and raises awareness about the important role they play in our health care system.  The US Family Health Plan Alliance appreciates the critical roles nurses play in providing quality health care, promoting patient wellness and improving health outcomes.

As part of our leadership in implementing the patient-centered medical home concept, US Family Health Plan member organizations were among the first TRICARE contractors to offer a 24-hour nurse chat hotline.  The hotline gives our members around-the-clock access to nurses and primary care doctors.  Through the hotline, our members have access to general health information, advice on the use of emergency services, guidance about the appropriate level of care for their medical condition, as well as assistance scheduling appointments.

As National Nurses Week draws to a close, the US Family Health Plan Alliance thanks America’s nurses for their service and tireless dedication to patient care and the health care field.  We could not serve our members without them.

US Family Health Plan Commemorates U.S. Navy Reserves’ 102nd Anniversary

The US Family Health Plan Alliance wishes a happy anniversary to the United States Navy Reserve. For 102 years, these brave Americans have seamlessly supported and contributed to the U.S. military mission. The readiness mission extends across the entire military community, including health care, and we are proud to stand behind the brave Reservists who uphold their motto of “Ready Now, Anytime, Anywhere.” The Alliance extends its sincerest gratitude to the members of the Navy Reserve for their continued service.

USFHP Member Series: A Labor of Love

U.S. Army Family Joins US Family Health Plan
Just in Time for a Planned Home Birth

ComeauxCoupleAfter more than a decade of life as a U.S. Army family, Faith and Aris Comeaux know a thing or two about process and planning.

In 2005, Faith – an Army enlistee from Nebraska – met her future husband, Aris, in Alabama at flight school. They were married, and both eventually became pilots. Faith completed ROTC, became an officer and went on to fly Apache helicopters, while Aris graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before flying Kiowa choppers. Their service to the Army kept them on the go as they moved to Alaska, back to Alabama, then to California and finally to New York.

It was after living in New York for a year that the Comeauxs – by then a family of six – were preparing to welcome baby number five. Faith, having given birth four times before, knew she wanted this one to happen at home and began making preparations.

 

Former US Family Health Plan member Faith Comeaux flying an Apache helicopter.

Former US Family Health Plan member Faith Comeaux flying an Apache helicopter.

 

“We had one baby that came within an hour, and we had him at home, because we didn’t make it to the hospital. Not by choice, you know. The next one I had at the hospital, so I wanted to do the next one as a home birth intentionally, plan it and set it all up,” she says. “I’ve had beautiful babies, beautiful pregnancies and deliveries and had no issues. The midwife was able to meet with me even with only a month and a half left, and she was comfortable doing it because everything lined up, and it was a safe environment for me and the baby.”

Despite her plans, as her due date approached, Faith’s planned home birth was in flux after she encountered procedural hurdles with her private insurance provider and her preferred hospital.

“It should have been simple, and it became this whole thing,” Comeaux recalls. “I was going to have a home birth one way or the other. Someone said try US Family Health Plan, and so at that point, instead of continuing to fight the hospital to get what my insurance covered, I did call them. I was already over my due date, and the clock was ticking!”

Faith spoke with Rhonda Morris, US Family Health Plan director with St. Vincent Catholic Medical Health Centers – a US Family Health Plan member organization in New York – who worked quickly to onboard Faith and her children as US Family Health Plan members, complete with the benefits of a safe, coordinated home birth.

“I joined US Family Health Plan two days before the baby came,” Comeaux says. “Everything went smoothly. Rhonda was able to get everything from the doctor and made my midwife a primary care provider. Then she had to work on transferring me over.”

Asaph ComeauxWithout a hitch, the Comeauxs were welcomed into the US Family Health Plan family. The Comeauxs, in turn, welcomed baby Asaph into their family. Faith says she is glad the US Family Health Plan supports home birth and midwifery, which she feels is a “lost art.”

“Everyone was very supportive, very encouraging,” she says. “They were willing to go above and beyond to meet my needs as the patient and set forth what would be best for me in my situation.”

 

The Comeauxs have since left New York, as Aris is in Korea for a year-long unaccompanied assignment. Faith has moved with the couple’s five children – three boys and two girls – to Hawaii. There they eagerly await Aris’ return and baby number six, a boy due in March. Ever the planner, Faith will again have a home birth.

“Of course I’m pregnant now, and I looked up US Family Health Plan to see if it was offered here! It would make my life a whole lot easier if it was,” she says. “I can’t stress it enough: it was God working through people that had willing hearts. It was just amazing. They were able to care about the patient more than anything else. I could have been just a number, and they could have said, ‘Nope you’re past due. We can’t help you.’ But they did the exact opposite. That was two years ago and still gives me goosebumps, to be honest.”

Comeaux Crew

Happy Birthday to the National Guard from the US Family Health Plan

The US Family Health Plan Alliance wishes the National Guard a Happy Birthday as it celebrates 380 years of service to our country.

The Alliance thanks all current, former and retired National Guard members for their service and sacrifices as they’ve upheld their motto of “Always Ready, Always There” for more than three-and-a-half centuries.

The member organizations of the US Family Health Plan Alliance express our sincere appreciation for the work of the Army and Air National Guard, and we are grateful for the privilege of providing health care to eligible members who receive their health care through the US Family Health Plan.

US Family Health Plan Alliance Celebrates Veterans Today and Throughout the Year

Veterans Day offers an opportunity to say thank you to those who have served in the United States military in defense of freedom and democracy.  The six US Family Health Plan health care systems participate in events throughout the year to celebrate and honor our veterans.

For example, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Center, participated in the annual “Vets Rock” event at Mohegan Sun resort in Connecticut for the second year in a row. This event supports the nonprofit organization, Til Duty is Done, and includes a career fair and professional sessions for service members, veterans and military spouses. The event is capped off with a concert that this year featured host Tony Orlando and musical performances by Drop Kick Murphys, Godsmack and Madison Rising.

VetsRock

“This is personal for me,” stated Maria Green, a retired Army Sergeant First Class and St. Vincent’s US Family Health Plan staff member. “Since retiring, I have devoted my second career to serving the military community.  Being a retired service member, I know first-hand the needs of veterans.  I do my best to provide valuable information on available resources to my fellow veterans.  This event in particular covers the full spectrum of resources from employment opportunities to health-related information and individual well-being seminars—and a dynamic closing concert to boot!”

For more than ten years, St. Vincent’s has also hosted “Breakfast with a Hero” to honor members who serve or have served our nation and which provides an opportunity for US Family Health Plan members to share stories with staff and friends over breakfast.

VetsDay3

“We look forward to this day,” said Debbie Sorrentino, practice manager at the Fort Wadsworth Family Health Center.  “Everyone gets involved in setting the stage for this day. Our staff starts decorating two weeks prior to Veterans Day.  This year, we created a flier to remind patients to come by and celebrate with us.  The word spreads quickly, and our patients schedule their routine appointments on this day to participate in the festivities as they check in on their health.”

Another US Family Health Plan organization, Christus Health, participates in the “Houston Salutes American Heroes” event with the City of Houston, a celebration that features a job and resource fair, a recognition ceremony honoring local heroes, and a parade of heroes. This year, Christus Health will provide health screenings and flu shots to more than 1,000 veterans and those in need, hosting games and other interactive events throughout the day.

These kinds of events allow the organizations that participate in the US Family Health Plan program to give back, in a small way, to those who have given so much to our great nation.  In honor of all who have served, the US Family Health Plan organizations express their sincere and enduring gratitude.

 

Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps from the US Family Health Plan

The US Family Health Plan Alliance wishes the brave men and women of the United States Marine Corps a Happy Birthday today as it celebrates 241 years of service to our country.

The Alliance thanks all current, former and retired Marines for their service to the nation and for protecting our freedom.  While we can never fully repay their service and sacrifice, we want all in the Marine Corps family to know of our gratitude.

The member organizations of the US Family Health Plan Alliance look forward to many more years of providing care to our nation’s finest and their families.

Happy Birthday to the US Navy and Air Force from the US Family Health Plan

The US Family Health Plan Alliance extends Happy Birthday wishes to two branches of our nation’s armed forces.

The Alliance salutes both the U.S. Navy, which celebrates its 241st birthday today, and the U.S. Air Force, which celebrated its 69th birthday on September 18.

Our country owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have served in both the Navy and Air Force throughout the years. We’re privileged to enjoy trusted relationships with many retirees and family members of active duty service members from these branches and are honored to be charged with their health care.

Back to School: US Family Health Plan Kickstarts a Productive and Healthy School Year

The end of summer brings the excitement of the beginning of another school year for children (and parents) across the country. The US Family Health Plan takes pride in keeping its youngest members – the children of military families across the country – healthy so they can have a productive, stimulating and educational school year.

In this spirit, one US Family Health Plan, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, produced a list of helpful back-to-school preparation tips. Saint Vincent partnered with Operation Homefront on a series of Back to School Brigade events across Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania to provide more than 2,500 military families with book bags loaded with school supplies.
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Parents and students pick through school supplies at Back to School Brigade events
sponsored by US Family Health Plan provider, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers.
(Click on article to view photo slideshow.)

In addition to having the right supplies for school, it is even more important for children to have the right medical care when they need it. Here are some useful health tips to keep in mind for your children:

  • Eat Right: Give your children a healthy edge with the right nutritional approach, including these dietary recommendations from Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers.
  • Stay Focused: Mental health and proper sleep habits are just as important as a proper diet. US Family Health Plan member Johns Hopkins HealthCare covers these areas and more in its Back-to-School Guide for Parents.
  • Eye Exams: It can be hard for children to learn well if they struggle to see the chalkboard. Ask your primary care physician about scheduling an eye exam for your child.
  • Annual Physical: Whether your children play sports or not, we recommend an annual physical to survey their general health and to ensure they are on track for continued healthy growth and development.
  • Vaccinations: Confirm with your primary care physician that your children’s vaccines are up to date and in alignment with school requirements.

Managing care throughout the school year can be hectic for parents. That’s why all US Family Health Plans are committed to making healthcare as easy as possible for our nation’s military families.

Freedom and Fireworks Fly at 2016 US Family Health Plan Freedom Over Texas Festival

Earlier this month, US Family Health Plan Alliance member organizations celebrated Independence Day by participating in patriotic events across the country. In Houston, Christus Health proudly served as title sponsor of the Freedom Over Texas Festival, an annual Fourth of July event that draws more than 50,000 people from across the state and region.[layerslider id=”7″]

Christus Health, part of TRICARE’s US Family Health Plan program, serves members in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. Overall, the US Family Health Plan program provides care to nearly 150,000 military family members and retirees across the country.

This year, the Freedom Over Texas Festival featured fireworks displays and musical performances by country music superstars Darius Rucker and the Eli Young Band. The day also included a historic flyover by two Vietnam War-era helicopters, flown by two veterans who had been shot down on July 4, 1971.

Alongside the festival events, Christus Health worked with the Houston Dynamo, the local Major League Soccer franchise, to host Military Appreciation Night on Saturday, July 2. This partnership is an extension of Christus Health’s relationship with the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, which helps Houston-area kids who might normally lack the resources to play soccer.

“We were so grateful to be a part of this event that gives back to the city of Houston and surrounding communities in a way that highlights the sacrifices of our armed services,” said Anita Leal, Executive Director of the Christus Health US Family Health Plan.

For more information visit www.freedomovertexas.org.