FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Taking care of an Army family requires a lot of work, and when it comes to taking care of family members with special needs, the Army doesn't let its families go it alone.

Fort Rucker's Exceptional Family Member Program is designed to help active-duty Soldiers and family members who have any type of special need to ensure that services specific to their families needs are available to them as they move throughout their military career, according to Vicki Harmon, EFMP coordinator.

The program is designed for both children and adults, and although the majority of family members enrolled in the program are children who might have developmental delays, those enrolled also include spouses who require special medical attention, such as for cancer or multiple sclerosis.

When it comes to special needs, the program covers a broad spectrum that include family members who need early intervention services, special educations services, counseling services, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, specialized care services, as well as a myriad of other services, said Harmon.

Once enrolled in the program, which is mandatory for families with exceptional family members, it allows Army personnel agencies to take into consideration the special needs of the family member, and when possible, Soldiers are assigned to an area where their family member's special needs can be met.

"If they have a child [with any specific disorder] that needs a specialist, then at their next duty assignment, they will be within an X number of miles that they will be able to take their child," said Harmon.

Once an exceptional family member is identified, the EFMP office begins work to make sure the family is taken care of to alleviate some of the work required to get that family member the help they need.

"We receive the paperwork over here and I'll create a roster over here for them, so if they contact me they can come in and get DVDs, books, phone numbers or any type of information for their family member that they need information on," said the EFMP coordinator. "Once that's been identified, then when they go to their briefings to PCS to a different location, that identifier makes officials aware that they have an exceptional family member, so they look to make sure that where they're going has the medical care that they need."

One important factor that Harmon said that Soldiers need to understand is that enrollment in the program in no way hinders their advancement in their Army career.

"It doesn't stop them from going places -- it just helps to ensure they get the best care for their family member," she said. "This is just to help and they need to get into that mindset that it's to help them make sure they get the best care.

"This can alleviate a lot of burden for the family member because if it were me, I'd be more than happy to know that someone is there to help because it can be so hard to get your foot in the door to a lot of doctor's offices, hospitals or specialty clinics," she continued. "If you've got someone on your side that can pave the way and make that appointment for you, then that really makes a difference."

Harmon gave an example of one exceptional family member who was pregnant that discovered after multiple doctor visits that her unborn child had a cardiology issue. Since this issue was identified, she was sent to a specialist to keep an eye on the child throughout the pregnancy, which helped to relieve a lot of stress for the family.

"I feel that if the family is taken care of, then that helps the Soldier to not be as stressed -- to know that the family is being taken care of to the best of the Army's ability, and that helps keep up that Soldier's morale," she said.

Also, in order to better serve the community, EFMP will be hosting a focus group Oct. 16 from 9-10 a.m. at Bldg. 5700, Rm. 371F. The focus group is intended to get ideas and opinions from the community on opportunities and services that exceptional family members on Fort Rucker need, said Harmon.

In order to participate in the focus group, people must register by Oct. 10.

For more information on EFMP or to register, call 255-9277.