Samaritan Medical Center has established the first off-post behavioral health clinic exclusively for active-duty Soldiers. Providers at the Fort Drum / Samaritan Behavioral Health Clinic, located at 165 Coleman Ave., Watertown, began seeing patients Monday.

Services at the clinic include assessment, diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions, including but not limited to counseling, group and individual therapy, education and medication management.

"We've been working on establishing this clinic since December, when it became clear that the Army needed as much support from community providers as we could provide in order to expand behavioral health services for Fort Drum Soldiers," explained Thomas H. Carman, president and chief executive officer for Samaritan Medical Center.

"We have worked in close partnership with Health Net Federal Services, and with full support of the Army, to make this idea a reality.

"Understanding the immediate and critical need for this service, our staff has worked diligently to recruit and hire clinic staff and providers, to renovate and furnish the building, to set up computers and phone lines, and the numerous other steps needed to begin treating Fort Drum Soldiers as quickly as possible," he added.

The new clinic is based on a contractual agreement between Samaritan Medical Center and Health Net Federal Services, the organization that administers the TRICARE program for this region. TRICARE is the health benefits program for Department of Defense beneficiaries, such as Fort Drum Soldiers and Family Members.

"The Fort Drum / Samaritan Behavioral Health Clinic complements the services currently available on Fort Drum through MEDDAC and the existing TRICARE network," explained Randy G. Howard, director of field optimization for Health Net Federal Services.

"There is a great and growing need for the services offered through these behavioral health facilities. The unique partnership that has been formed between Health Net, Samaritan Medical Center and the Army has resulted in another significant program to increase access to much-needed health care services for Soldiers and their Families," he added.

Samaritan Medical Center is hiring 13 new employees to provide services through the clinic, including two psychiatrists, two psychologists, four social workers, two alcohol and substance abuse counselors, two office support staff and a practice manager.

"This is one more example of how Fort Drum's unique community-based health care model enables local providers to create innovative solutions to address the needs of the military community," said Col. Jerome Penner III, Fort Drum U.S. Army Medical Department Activity commander.

"The collaborative efforts and discussions that take place through the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization enable representatives from all local health care agencies to identify priority needs and work together to identify solutions.

"These collective efforts result in expanded and enhanced health care services to the entire community," he added.