ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, July 20, 2010) -- The Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Exceptional Family Member Program brought together about 100 EFMP program managers from around the world to discuss program initiatives, receive updates and learn how to work seamlessly with the Child Youth and School Services school liaison officers.

Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Installation Management Command, commander, has declared July as EFMP Awareness Month.

Besides the conference's message of improving and standardizing family and community support, one message stood out above the rest.

"The number one request I hear from EFMP families as I travel around is for assistance in navigating the variety of services and programs available to them from the Army, the DoD and other government agencies," Lynch said.

"To address this we are adding 44 System Navigators to EFMP staff around the Installation Management Community," said Maj. Gen. Reuben D. Jones, commander, FMWRC.

Jones said the new navigators will be stationed at 26 "highly-impacted garrisons" and will be trained in two two-week courses at the Maj. Gen. Robert M. Joyce Family and MWR Academy, beginning Sept. 27.

Soldiers move their families every two to three years. This move can be stressful, but for families with special needs, that stress can be magnified when looking for special support services.

"We have hired these new EFMP System Navigators to provide non-medical case management for families. They will help families with special needs as they navigate through all the hurdles, minimizing the stress," said Sharon Fields, EFMP program manager.

Families with members requiring special educational and medical services often have to rebuild a complex system of providers and services to support the health and development of their family members.

They can put an incredible amount of time and effort into creating a network that enables their family members to flourish, and then, when it comes time to relocate, they have to start again.

"The Army does not intend for these families to go it alone. The EFMP, managed through FMWRC, is a comprehensive, coordinated program that provides community support, educational, medical, housing and personnel services to families with special needs," Lynch said.

EFMP is currently serving 16 percent of all Army families, or more than 70,000 registered family members. The program has provided critical support to families since its start in 1979, as part of the Army Family Covenant.

Families who have questions or need EFMP support are encouraged to go to the garrison Army Community Service and speak with the EFMP manager.

(Rob McIlvaine writes for FMWRC Public Affairs)