Behavioral healthcare benefits affect Soldiers' quality of life
By Patricia Deal
CRDAMC Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas—There are many benefits to being a Soldier when comparing military and civilian career options, one being free health care.
The rigors of combat and deployments can cause a lot more stress than what the average civilian faces, and creates an increased need for behavioral healthcare among the military population. Worrying about paying for behavioral healthcare is a stressor Soldiers and their families don't need.
Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Department provides immediate access to quality behavioral healthcare without charge.
“We offer complete care for mild depressive issues to severe psychosis, and everything in between,” said Lt. Col. Sharette Gray, chief of CRDAMC Behavioral Health. “We offer integrated, comprehensive behavioral health services to Warriors and their Families, whenever they need it, for as long as they need it.”
Almost 50 million Americans are without health insurance. For those that do have it, the average annual out-of-pocket costs for a family can be more than $5,000, according to Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust survey.
While the cost of health insurance is increasing, the treatment and services covered by some plans are decreasing. Many health plans do not cover or severely limit mental health and substance abuse treatments. Others require preauthorization for certain services and prescriptions, and will only pay benefits for pre-approved treatment plans.
“Health insurance is expensive, and costs are expected to increase. Active-duty Soldiers and their family members under TRICARE Prime still have the benefit of receiving health care, which includes all behavioral health care services, with no out-of-pocket costs,” said Chuck Lauer, CRDAMC TRICARE administrator.
Soldiers and their Family members also have the benefit of having behavioral health providers and services conveniently available to them. If they can’t be treated at CRDAMC, Humana Military has contracted for almost 200 behavioral health professionals within an hour’s drive of Fort Hood to help take care of their needs, according to Lauer.
A random search for Marriage and Family therapists in one nationally-recognized insurance company’s network turned up only two within 100 miles of Fort Hood.
“Soldiers do have the advantage when it comes to seeking behavioral health services,” Gray said. “CRDAMC has several specialized treatment programs that address the unique needs of Soldiers such as the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), the only treatment program of its type currently in the Army, and the Warrior Combat Stress Reset Program which utilizes traditional as well as complementary alternative medicine treatments.”
The IOP treats Soldiers for behavioral health issues and substance abuse, using traditional and alternative medicine treatment methods such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR) and Acupuncture Detoxification (Acudetox).
Acupuncture treatments and many other services offered by the IOP are not covered under certain civilian insurance plans.
According to Gray, Fort Hood’s outpatient behavioral health services for Soldiers are provided primarily at CRDAMC’s main outpatient behavioral health clinic, the Resilience and Restoration (R&R) Center.
“The R&R center is integral to maintaining the mental health of active-duty personnel. It offers many services to help Soldiers deal with a variety of issues and each treatment plan is individualized for the Soldier based on particular needs,” Gray said. “Patients may be referred to the center or they can self-refer by visiting the Urgent Care and Triage Center – no requirement for pre-authorization.”
Services available at the R&R center include medication assessment and management, individual and group therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other issues, psychological testing and biofeedback therapy.
A check of three popular insurance plans revealed that many of those services, such as biofeedback therapy, were not covered at all.
Marriage and family counseling services are also not covered by many insurance plans or require a higher out-of-pocket cost.
“We truly address the needs of families. Our Social Work Department and Child Adolescent Psychiatry Evaluation Service offer a wide range of services and programs to help Soldiers and their family members deal with any and all of their behavioral health challenges,” Gray said. “The need is definitely there. In the last four years, the Department of Social Work workload has increased 175 percent.”
While many insurance plans are looking at ways to limit, and/or eliminate, behavioral health services coverage, CRDAMC, through TRICARE, is continually looking at ways to improve and enhance behavioral health services for Soldiers and their families.
“We’re looking to create more embedded behavioral health teams to support the Soldier at the unit level. We’re also looking at possibly expanding our services for children and families, with the development of a comprehensive, integrated Child and Family Assistance Center,” Gray said. “When you look at the entire picture for behavioral health, with all that we can offer, the advantage clearly goes to the military.”
Jeannie Stuts, licensed massage therapist at CRDAMC’s Warrior Combat Stress Reset program, gives a massage to Sgt. Brandon Gott to help relieve his stress. Massage therapy, acupuncture, Yoga and Reiki are a few of the alternative treatment therapies offered at the WCSRP. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Deal, CRDAMC Public Affairs)
Dr. Jerry Wesch, program director of CRDAMC’s Warrior Combat Stress Reset program conducts a group therapy class. Group counseling is one of the treatment options at the WCSRP, a three-week intensive outpatient treatment program designed to help Soldiers deal with their moderate to severe post traumatic stress symptoms. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Deal, CRDAMC Public Affairs)
Ada Morales, a psychology technician at CRDAMC’s Resilience and Restoration Center, administers a block design subtest to evaluate a Soldier’s perceptual reasoning. Psychological testing for Soldiers having difficulties with memory and cognitive functioning is one of the many services provided at the R&R center. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Deal, CRDAMC Public Affairs)
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Fort Hood, TX 76544