By Skip Vaughn, USAG RedstoneJuly 19, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Natalie Taylor wants members of Redstone's military population to know they're not alone.
She's the Exceptional Family Member Program manager at Army Community Service. EFMP is the Armywide program for identifying active-duty military families that have special needs members.
"Basically if a Soldier has a family member with a medical need, they're required to enroll in the EFMP program," Taylor said. "If a child has a developmental delay or IEP (individualized education plan) through special ed, or if they have a medical diagnosis that warrants a specialized doctor, they're required to enroll in the program."
When the program began in 1979, enrollment was voluntary. But the Army found that Soldiers didn't always step forward to identify their special-needs family members. There were cases in which Soldiers were assigned overseas or to stateside installations that couldn't provide the necessary medical care. So enrollment in EFMP became mandatory.
Under the program, the gaining installation is notified in advance to see if the Soldier's special-needs family member could be cared for medically. If not, the installation is removed from the list of possible assignments for that particular Soldier.
"They'll find out which installation can accommodate the medical needs of the family before they'll send them there," Taylor explained.
Special medical needs vary from cancer, diabetes, asthma, Graves' disease; and mental health conditions such as depression. EFMP managers ask if the necessary physicians are available through Tricare and if that physician, or psychiatrist, takes new patients. They ask such questions before the Soldier is assigned to a particular installation.
"We have a lot of children on the autism spectrum," Taylor said.
Redstone's program has 141 Soldiers with 181 special-needs family members. They have a variety of educational and medical needs. In one particular family, the Soldier's wife and five children are all enrolled.
"Eight percent of military families at Redstone are enrolled in EFMP," Taylor said.
She works closely with the Military Personnel Office because sometimes they have to do compassionate orders for a Soldier. In one case, a Soldier in advanced individual training is a single parent, legally separated from her husband, and had orders to Korea. Because of the Soldier's circumstances - one of her two young children was enrolled in EFMP - the personnel office was able to cancel those orders. "We can try to help with assignment changes," Taylor said.
At any given time, she is probably working with 25 families on case management. This might entail helping them prepare for their next permanent change of station, or assisting them with an individualized education plan meeting, or finding an autism resource.
Soldiers enroll in the program through their installation medical facility -- in this case, Fox Army Health Center. Terrence Haywood is the EFMP coordinator at Fox. He handles the enrollment in the program, disenrollment from the program, and the Soldiers' required update every three years. "Every three years the Soldier has to update their records," Taylor said.
She can also help with enrollment and can be reached by calling Army Community Service at 256-876-5397.
"I just don't want them to feel like they're alone out there," Taylor, the program manager here nine years, said. "We'll find the resource that can provide the service they're looking for."
In 2007 the EFMP Respite Program was created as part of the Army Family Covenant. Originally an Army Family Action Plan issue, the Army responded by giving special-needs families the respite care they wanted. And it was funded for Army installations. Basically it pays for a child to be cared for either in their home or a child development center. "To give the mother a break so she can kind of re-energize and refresh to go back into care for her children and provide strong support for her family," Taylor said.
The respite program can give up to 40 hours per month, and will pay for the child care. And the hours are based on a family support matrix.
"I'd love for more families to get on that (respite) program," Taylor said. "It's been real beneficial to the families. I did at one time have up to 15 families using it. Now it's just down to eight. And I know more could use it."