By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)April 12, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- A month after the unofficial opening, staff members at the Mountain Post Behavioral Health Clinic have already settled into a routine, seeing Soldiers, Family members and civilians.
For Arthur Hastings, director, and Dr. Anne Lyon League, psychiatrist and chief, Department of Behavioral Health, the move comes at a vital time in the Army's mission to help Soldiers battling invisible wounds.
"The Army has recognized that we cannot hide from this anymore," said League, a retired Army major. "(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and (Traumatic Brain Injury) has become so prevalent that we need to address them up front and mainstream them with the rest of our medical care."
Hastings and League acknowledge the challenges they face working with Soldiers, many of whom still see mental health care as a negative option.
"The stigma on mental health is not new and is not unique (to the Army)," League said. "In the military, there may be even more of a stigma because you're expected to just drive on, suck it up."
Hastings and League hope the location of the new clinic on the Mountain Post Resiliency Campus offers Soldiers a sense of privacy and discretion when seeking mental health services.
"It's designed to be something that is easy to get to," said Hastings, a retired Army command sergeant major. "People 'weird out' when going to visit a shrink … Here, you're not going to a hospital, you're going to a clinic. It helps (Soldiers) feel more comfortable."
The new facility houses the Intensive Outpatient Program and offices for more than 85 providers including doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists.
In the IOP, behavioral health staff work with Soldiers on three tracks -- stabilization, resiliency and trauma. For several weeks, Soldiers meet in small groups two-four days per week for four hours each day. The Soldiers work through therapeutic exercises and are also educated about mental health so they are better equipped to handle stressful situations.
"We used to serve only return-to-duty Soldiers," said Dr. Tasha Kalhorn, director of the IOP. "Now, in any given month we're serving about 40-plus Soldiers."
Kalhorn said her staff has received more than 580 referrals and has a wait list for the resiliency and trauma tracks.
"These peer groups are quite effective in essentially treating each other. It's a very powerful type of therapy," League said.
In addition to the new clinic, Fort Carson officials launched a unique plan to embed mental health professionals within brigades to help form a relationship with Soldiers and serve as a "first stop" for those struggling.
"What we've actually done here is put ourselves down there where the Soldier is and communicate with the Soldier and the commander," League said. "Over time these teams get to know the leadership within the different brigades and develop relationships with them."
The teams are made up of active-duty Soldiers and public health service officers who are trained nurses, social workers and therapists.
"The idea of locating mental health (services) near Soldiers is not really new," Hastings said. "But the amount of resources devoted to mental health services is huge."
Hastings stressed that behavioral health services are available 24 hours each day and Fort Carson has a satellite office located on Austin Bluffs Parkway and Union Boulevard.