FORT CARSON, Colo. - Tricare began a trial online behavioral healthcare counseling program for Soldiers and Family members Aug. 1. The Tricare Assistance Program is a trail behavioral healthcare program for eligible beneficiaries. The short-term assistance service is part of the Tricare Online Behavioral Healthcare Program, a Department of Defense initiative created to assist military families maintain mental health fitness. According to the TriWest website, the healthcare program responsible for the Fort Carson region, the TriWest Health Care Alliance Online Care augments face-to-face behavioral healthcare options by providing a range of care that includes several levels of online behavioral health information and support. TRIAP offers private, non-reportable discussions of personal life issues such as dealing with relationships, crisis intervention, stress management, family issues, parent-child communications, family separations and self-esteem. The program reflects well on the government's commitment to Soldiers and Family members to decrease the number of suicides, Dr. Blake Chaffee, vice president of Integrated Healthcare Services, TriWest. TRIAP is an example of one of the many initiatives the Army is undertaking to support servicemembers and their families to provide behavioral healthcare, said Mary Krueger, 4th Infantry Division surgeon. "Our hopes are that the program provides a bridge for those that are seeking help before their situation becomes a crisis," she added. Sponsors and their Family members enrolled in TriWest may contact beneficiary services and licensed clinicians 24 hours-a-day, year-round at or call at 1-888-874-9378, said Dr. Blake Chaffee, vice president of Integrated Healthcare Services, TriWest. The intent behind the program is to reach as many people as possible, allowing servicemembers and their families the ability to interact with a counselor and overcome the social stigmas surrounding behavioral health, said Capt. Samuel Preston, 4th Infantry Division psychiatrist. The counseling sessions are completely confidential, and no files will be entered into the Soldiers medical records, explained Preston. The online counselors have at least a master's degree and are licensed professionals that provide nonmedical solutions focused on counseling, said Chaffee. Counseling begins soon after the sponsor's information is received, he explained. The online program incorporates web cameras and Skype; a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the internet, to conduct the counseling sessions, said Dr. Frank Maguire, chief medical officer, TriWest. The online service will also arrange for medical appointments at local healthcare facilities, providing patrons other options, in the event Tricare beneficiaries are unable to support computer requirements for the VTC counseling, added Chaffee. Counselors will refer beneficiaries to medical treatment facilities for face-to-face counseling if warranted, said Chaffee. It is the participants responsibility to follow-up their appointments. The counselor will breach confidentiality to ensure the beneficiary gets the proper help if he or she is determined a danger to themselves or others, clarified Chaffee. The trail is slated to end April 2010, said Chaffee. The TRIAP to date has been successful and the beneficiaries that have taken advantage of the services have been pleased, said Chaffee. The Department of Defense will observe suicide prevention month during the month of September. This year's theme is "Improving Our Soldiers and Families Health: a healthy force combating high risk behaviors". This theme conveys the message that the Army is committed to a holistic approach to improve the physical, spiritual, and behavioral health of our Soldiers, their families, and the department of the Army civilians.