Friday, February 05, 2010

LAW hits the Hill

Well, actually the Congressional Military Family Caucus Briefing on mental health issues.

First – don’t ever try to get into the Capital Visitor’s Center with food, water or knitting needles (even circulars) they make you throw them away. If you dislike TSA at the airport, you will detest the Capital Security police – they make the airport folks seem downright polite by comparison. Watching a cop scream at a tourist who obviously couldn’t read English (signage on door only in English) about opening the In door instead of the Out door, which set off an alarm… ridiculous. Welcome to the Nation’s Capital!

The change when I reached the room where the Caucus was held – amazing. Military supporters, and a lot of retired Brass- the kind with stars. I was frankly amazed when (not retired, and in full Blues) General Sutton came up and remembered meeting me at a function months before, she’s a great advocate for the mental health of military families. I have hope that some of the changes she is pushing for will happen and if it doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of enthusiasm on her part!

Kristy Kaufmann started the proceedings, as always telling it very much like it is! Running an FRG during deployment on cupcake sales – that really irked some very distinguished looking gentlemen I was sitting next to. They were pretty shocked when I told them that we couldn’t even sell those cupcakes to other units, just to our personnel. General, it really WAS that different when you were Active, wasn’t it! But Sir, we weren’t in two wars with a smaller military, dragging on for 8 years, back then. When Kristy showed us Peggy and Monique, and told us their stories, told us about Faye – those Army wives who just broke, who were so tired and so discouraged, that they ended it the only way they thought they could – that really hit the Congress people in the audience, and the rest of us. As the Rep from CA said, we won’t forget Peggy…

BG Sutton talked to us about the future plans for changes in how the mental health community is trying to assist both the serving military and families. I’m hoping that this is really going to happen, the availability of mental health counselors is limited! In OCONUS, we are hearing in one area that the counselor who is supposed to be handling special needs families, is also now tasked with PTSD cases and families as well!

The head of Tri-West - well he’s really got it. They are also partnering with the USO, to help those volunteers when they see someone needing an assist. When I chatted with him after the presentations, he first thanked me for my question – when I asked that they please please put counselors in place who at least spoke our language, who understood the military and how it works. All the degrees in the world don’t help when you are trying to talk to someone about how you are feeling and have to stop in the middle to translate terminology. Hearing from an AirForce spouse about the base civilian mental health worker who tells a pregnant young woman to go to the Company Command and demand that her husband come home from deployment for the birth of their child “because it’s her right and they have to do it”… oh, yeah, that really helped her, didn’t it???? I was told that there is training available, but that he was going to check that everyone is getting that! I told him that my experience with this was back in 2005-6, and he shared with me that they heard it a lot from those of us in the MN Guard who were using their services – we understood that they ramped those psychologists and counselors up in a matter of a couple of weeks when the extension happened, but he apologized so often, I almost felt bad for bringing it up!

The American Red Cross talked to us about the training they are giving their volunteers, the great Give an Hour partnership – there’s something we need to do some research on for our readers, and I promise I will. Any of you who have used this, let us know, ok?

Afterwards, a lot of talking, a lot of connecting, and questions from the TriWest reps about what do we need, ON THE GROUND. Kristy kept saying it, and I think and hope it got through, this is something that we need at the unit level. The top down approach – isn’t going to cut it!

If you haven’t joined the caucus on their Facebook page, do it. I know they are hoping for more conversations with and by US, the military families they want to assist. It’s a great way to connect, let’s help educate those who need to know what our real lives are like.

xposted on LeftFace


Lisa said...

Outstanding! I hope that this won't take a ridiculous amount of time to come to fruition...but it's the military and I know better. keep up the good work!


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