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JBSA mental health providers provide support to service members

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Sept. 12, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Active duty members who are feeling depressed and thinking about suicide have a group of mental health providers at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston they can turn to for help.

The Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Health Program, affiliated with the Brooke Army Medical Center Department of Behavioral Health, provides services for active duty personnel who have mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and suicidal ideation, which is thoughts about committing suicide.

Capt. Richard Schobitz, chief of the Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Health Program and licensed clinical psychologist, said the program is centered on providing coping strategies for service members who are struggling with mental health problems and to prevent the occurrence of suicide.

“Our patients are those who need a higher level of care than traditional outpatient therapy,” Schobitz said. “We work with that by coming up with a good plan with the patient that focuses on safety and employing coping skills that are learned as part of the treatment.”

Program psychologists and clinical social workers work with their patients in coming up with a six step plan that includes activities they can do to take their mind off their problems, a list of people, agencies and mental health professionals they can contact during a crisis and people and social settings which can provide a distraction from their problems.

Schobitz said thoughts of suicide among active duty members can be triggered by several things including a traumatic experience in combat, childhood abuse, marital or family problems, depression or a substance abuse problem.

“Thoughts of suicide become more prevalent when someone’s behavioral health symptoms are so overwhelming that they begin to feel hopeless,” he said.

Schobitz said someone who is isolated from their family and friends maybe at risk for developing suicidal thoughts. He said the key is to break out of their isolation by having someone to talk to, such as a commander, chaplain, spouse, family member or friend, get involved in an activity they enjoy and surround themselves with friends and family.

Resources for suicide prevention active duty and JBSA members can utilize include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a 24-hour hotline and BAMC clinics and programs at http://www.bamc.amedd.army.mil/departments/behavioral/spsd/#help.

Schobitz said service members who need to seek immediate help can go to the Multi-Disciplinary Behavioral Health Services Clinic at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, located at 4178 Petroleum Drive, building 3528R, near the RV Park.

The clinic is open Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To reach the Multi-Disciplinary Behavioral Health Services Clinic, call 210-539-9589/9567.

Other outpatient BAMC system clinics at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston that provide services to active-duty personnel are the Campus Behavioral Health Services Clinic, which serves students at the Medical Educational and Training Campus, located inside the Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno Primary Care Clinic, 3100 Schofield Rd., Building 1179, and the San Antonio Military Medical Center Multi-Disciplinary Behavioral Health Clinic, 3551 Roger Brooke Drive, building 3600R (trailer 16).

Children and family members of active duty personnel can seek help at the BAMC Child and Family Behavioral Health Services Clinic, located near the pediatrics unit at SAMMC, at 3551 Roger Brooke Drive.

In addition, SAMMC provides 24-hour psychiatric care and can treat patients admitted in the hospital’s emergency room who could be suicidal.

For people who know of a friend or someone who is contemplating suicide, the best thing to do is to stay in touch with that person and help them to get support from their commander, a chaplain or at one of the BAMC mental health clinics, Schobitz said.

“Listen and take them seriously,” he said.

Col. Steve Lewis, chief of the BAMC Department of Behavioral Health, said help is available 24 hours for service members who are dealing with mental health issues whether it’s by calling the National Suicide Prevention hotline or at the SAMMC emergency room.

Lewis said military personnel, their family members and dependents can also access mental health care through the TRICARE network, with a listing of providers at http://www.tricare.mil.

Military retirees and family members can seek mental health care through TRICARE without getting a referral from their primary care provider, said Lewis.

Lewis said service members and unit leaders should keep an eye on their unit members to make sure they are okay and to be there for them when they need help.

“We are always encouraging leaders to be engaged with their Soldiers, service members and (the service member’s) family members to be alert for if they have a recent failed event in their life, whether it’s a relationship, professionally or a significant loss of a family member,” Lewis said. “Constant vigilance and engagement with others is critical to at least identify those people who may need help.”

For more information on the Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Health Program, call 210-808-2585. The program is located at the Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno Primary Care Clinic, 3100 Schofield Rd., building 1179, at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.