FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Challenges abound with taking care of an Army family, and taking care of families with special needs family members requires extra care and dedication, but the Army offers support to make sure families with special needs are well taken care of.

The Exceptional Family Member Program, designed to help active-duty Soldiers and family members with any type of special need, is in the process of identifying families for its child and family find campaign through the month of September as a way to ensure those services are available to those who need them throughout their military career, said Marion Cornish, EFMP program manager.

People can visit the post exchange Sept. 14-30 and the Center Library throughout the month to get additional information on the campaign. There will also be a special Story Time at the Center Library Sept. 16 from 10:15-11 a.m.

The term "special needs" covers a broad spectrum, said the EFMP manager, and includes physical, intellectual, developmental delays, emotional impairments that require special treatment, therapy, education, training or counseling.

Enrollment is mandatory for Soldiers who are active-duty Army, Army Reserve Soldiers in the Army Active Guard Reserve program and other Soldiers on active duty exceeding 30 days, and Army National Guard personnel serving under authority of Title 10 orders who have exceptional family members, said Cornish, adding that mobilized and deployed Reservists and National Guard members are not eligible.

"Enrollment allows the assignment manager at Army personnel agencies to consider the documented medical and special needs of exceptional family members in the assignment process," said the EFMP manager. "When possible, Soldiers are assigned to an area where the medical and special education needs of their EFM can be met. This will depend on a valid personnel requirement for the Soldier's grade, specialty and eligibility for the tour, and all Soldiers are still eligible for worldwide assignments."

There are two major components to the EFMP program, said Cornish: the support side, which is Army Community Service that provides client referrals, advocacy, workshops, trainings and respite care; and the medical side, which falls under Lyster Army Health Clinic that oversees health screenings, enrollment and disenrollment, and updates to medical records.

"Lyster's EFMP conducts EFM screenings, enrollments, updates and disenrollment, and Army Regulation 608-75, requires Soldiers to update EFM enrollment every three years or sooner if services for special needs are no longer required," said Cornish. "When disenrollment is involved for whatever reason, the Soldier must make sure to visit the nearest Army medical EFMP office to do so, even if they are stationed at a post of a different armed forces branch."

Cornish said families who need to enroll in EFMP or want to see if they are eligible for EFMP services should call 255-7431 to make an appointment with Lyster's EFMP office.

For EFMP advocacy services, respite care, information and referral services, free educational and training opportunities, and resource library and relocation assistance, people can contact Army Community Service EFMP at 255-9277, she said.

"Family members need to touch base with their medical EFMP office because they will be able to take them step-by-step through the whole process," she said, "and some services will require the health care provider's signature."

Once the paperwork is done and filed, family members will be screened by a physician at LAHC to make sure everything is in order, and Cornish reassures that families won't have to go through the process alone.

The most popular service is respite care, said Cornish, which helps primary caregivers of qualifying families get time away from their daily routine. If a family meets all the requirements, they can receive this service for a maximum of 40 hours a month at no cost to them.

"If you're in doubt, just call us and talk with us, and we can give you some preliminary information over the phone," she said. "The program is designed to help and the end result is the Army is concerned for the overall wellbeing of the family."

For more information, call 255-9277.