EFMP aids special needs families
February 6, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. (Feb. 6, 2014) -- Many military service men and women have a family member who requires special education, medical care and support. A PCS means having to restart many of those support systems. Working as highly effective advocates, the installation Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) exists to support and enhance the quality of life for the military family with special needs.
On average 1,200 families are enrolled in the EFMP on Fort Sill. EFMP can provide needed information and referrals; enhance enrolled family members knowledge about federal, state and local support for people with disabilities; improve their advocacy and coping skills; and aid individuals and families in solving individual issues when needed.
The EFMP is a mandatory enrollment program for any Soldier who has a family member with medical, educational, developmental, behavioral or psychological special needs, according to April Plumley, EFMP manager.
"This can be anything from asthma to chronic depression or heart disease; there's a long list of enrollable conditions. So if they have a family member with a medical need or a condition that has been newly identified they should go ahead and be screened for enrollment. Children with an Individualized Education Plan also need to be enrolled in EFMP," said Plumley.
"The main purpose of the EFMP is to make sure when a Soldier PCSs services will be available for their family member at their next duty station. We don't want a Soldier, who has a family member with an enrollable condition to PCS only to find out there's not a specialist in that area," she said.
If services are not available, the Soldier will likely do an unaccompanied tour so their family can remain where the services are, ensuring their needs are met.
Enrollment in EFMP does not adversely affect selection for promotions, schools or assignments. Information concerning enrollment in EFMP and data used in the program are not made available to selection boards.
"There are some negative misconceptions Soldiers have that it will hurt their career, but it's the opposite … it ensures the family member has the necessary services available," said Plumley.
At Fort Sill Army Community Service, EFMP provides additional support services to families.
"We work with civilian and military agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support," she said. "We have an EFMP respite care program for the moderate to severe special needs. We have a Systems Navigator, who can provide advocacy and case management services to those EFMP families who are in transition or maybe they are just coming to Fort Sill. Usually they are setting up services and are in that limbo stage of PCSing.
"We play a role in making sure accommodations can be made across Fort Sill for a family member with a disability who wants to participate in an activity that isn't part of the EFMP activities. We can liaison with the agency hosting the event and request accommodations be made, allowing the family member to participate. A good example is if you are in a wheelchair and you want to go to LETRA beach, we have special wheelchairs available that can maneuver through the sand," said Plumley.
She said many of the facilities on post make special accommodations to ensure everyone can participate. "I think Fort Sill does a good job of going above and beyond to accommodate a wide variety of special needs but if there is a doubt, they can always use us as a point of contact."
Plumley said the EFMP hosts a monthly support group event for its families and encourages participation in those activities.
"We do a lot of fun stuff like bowling and scrapbooking and for the families with an EFM with more moderate to severe special needs, we have the Cowabunga Family Fun Days. This is a family event so the whole family can come -- siblings and parents," she said. "We went to Oklahoma City for Thunder basketball game, we went to an OU football game and we had a large catered pool party at the Patriot Club in the last year. We've done all kinds of cool things."
If families are interested in finding out more about EFMP activities they can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call to get on the email distribution list. For more information, call 580-442-4916.