It's 7 a.m., and the auditorium inside the Fort Stewart Main Post Chapel is beginning to show signs of life as providers, from various parts of the world begin to take their seats for the 2016 Marne Health Summit. The Summit is a vital networking, training and certification opportunity which allows providers to receive their Continuing Education Credits during a three day training seminar.
The idea for the Marne Health Summit is the brainchild of Fort Stewart U.S. Army MEDDAC, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Heidi Hill and Peggy Dickey. The two women developed the framework, for what would become the Summit, during a fact finding mission to discover where they could receive local ethics training.
Licensed social workers, such as Dickey and Hill, are required to obtain continuing education credits for their individual licensures. While researching how to best accomplish this task, the duo discovered there were other providers who were looking for a way to obtain their CEU's as well.
Hill and Dickey were able to put together a robust team that has been integral to the success of the Summit.
Three U.S. Army Chaplains provided training during the summit. Of the 21 CEU'seven were provided by Chaplains. Chaplain (Maj.) Jeff Matsler provided instruction in moral injury, and bioethics, Chaplain (Capt.) Mary Baars -- O'Malley provided training on the Chaplains response to male sexual trauma. Chaplain (Maj.) Ken Harris team taught bereavement training with psychologist David Webster who is the son of a Vietnam era Army Chaplain.
"We decided to come together and figure out a way to be able to provide that service to local people who were in need," Hill said. "This has grown into an event that has become three days of training, and saving the Army over a million dollars."
Since its inception, the Summit has relied on the skills, experience and goodwill of its volunteers who provide their services for free.
"We've had some great speakers come out and they're talking about cutting edge, new technologies, new types of treatments and new types of policies and procedures the Army is putting out, because that is ever changing," Hill said.
Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, U.S. Army MEDDAC Commander, Col. Christopher Warner, took time out of his busy schedule to kick off the Summit and welcome the participants.
"Developing those relationships of folks you can network to and reach out to, seek support from, and also coordinate care with, as we transition patients from location to location, or through our different sources of care becomes very valuable," Warner said. "To realize that as a young officer I wish I would have had it more. So, the opportunity now to provide that here for our junior providers and team mates is key."
Warner chose to talk to the participants at this year's summit about the ever changing and evolving face of military behavioral health. He touched on the importance of continuing to be a learning organization, continuing to grow, adapt and evolve to meet the demands of the Winn patient population.
"We got to continue to grow to support the readiness of the Army and also make sure we're caring for the Families," Warner said. "We can't become stagnant in that."
Medical readiness and the ability to evolve with the changing atmosphere in the military is one of the key factors that was touched on during retired U.S. Army Colonel Carl Castro's speech on the acceptance and integration of LGBT service members. He touched on the importance of accepting Soldiers with all of their differences.
"Readiness is what the Army is all about," Castro said. "Ready to go on a moment's notice and that means everybody, not some people, not most people, but everybody. It's only when everybody's ready, that the unit will be at its peak performance, and peak effectiveness."
Since its foundation, the Marne Behavioral Health Summit has provided an environment where providers from all over can work on their own professional development, and it's growing every year. The estimated number of providers at this year's conference was about 450.