NEWS | April 2, 2021

Program for sexual assault survivors available at JBSA

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio has been home to an intensive outpatient program for survivors of sexual assault since 2014, and now that program has been selected as a pilot site for an evaluation study of TRICARE’s Sexual Trauma Intensive Outpatient Programs.   

The JBSA program, based out of Brooke Army Medical Center, provides care for active-duty service members who have survived sexual trauma at any time during their life and who are experiencing related mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.  

During the pilot study, eligible participants will receive care from a select team of providers and can volunteer to have the outcomes relating to their experiences compared to those in similar programs in both military and civilian settings.  

“The pilot is a way to demonstrate that BAMC has an effective program in place to successfully treat survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault,” said Dr. Gerry Grace, chief of the Sexual Trauma Intensive Outpatient Program, Department of Behavioral Health at BAMC.  “We are excited to be part of this endeavor to further develop best practices which may be replicated in order to increase access to care for survivors nationwide.”  

The BAMC intensive outpatient program provides survivors with multiple services, including mental health care, support, and other benefits, and participants may also work with case managers to ensure access to community resources and support systems in the local area.  

Service members interested in participating in the program can consult with their primary care manager or mental health care provider to determine eligibility and to request authorization and referral.  

There is also an intake process and an assessment, which will help determine if the person is a good fit for the program, Grace said. If so, the patient will be presented with treatment options. 

“Only patients who are ready for this type of intensive treatment, and consent to a course of treatment related to the sexual assault, are accepted into the study and program,” Grace said.  

The outpatient program is six weeks long and includes daily group sessions and two individual sessions per week with a provider who specializes in helping patients with trauma.  

During the group sessions the service member will learn about post-traumatic stress and learn coping strategies to help mitigate and alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, Grace explained.  

“The individual sessions are 90 minutes, and within that session, the patient will specifically focus on the sexual assault,” he said. “They will be helped by the provider to emotionally process the traumatic event and begin to address the negative consequences that the event has caused in their life.

“During the group sessions, the privacy of the patient is paramount, and details of their sexual assault will not be discussed,” the doctor said. “The patient will be with other group members who are struggling with similar issues related to post-traumatic stress. 

“Throughout the treatment process, it is typical that the trauma survivor finds new levels of freedom from the constraints of the traumatic memory and experience, reclaiming their lives and what is ultimately important to them, such as increased engagement with spouses, children, family and friends,” Grace added.  

“We know, from decades of research, that any male or female who has endured sexual assault has a very high predictability of developing debilitating psychological symptoms, primarily trauma-related symptoms, that lead to post-traumatic stress,” Grace said. “This program is intended to provide the support and care our patients need to start the recovery and healing process.”  

While the program at BAMC is always available to active-duty survivors of sexual assault, the pilot is only taking place through Aug. 31. The last day for an active-duty member in San Antonio to admitted to the program for the pilot is July 31.  

“The pilot program may end in August, but all that means is that data collection for the purposes of the study will end,” Grace said. “The program, with its emphasis on effectively treating all types of trauma, to include sexual assault, will continue at BAMC.” 

To participate in the pilot, service members must meet the qualifications, which include:  

  • Being on active duty; 

  • Having a diagnosis from a mental health provider, a TRICARE authorized provider, or at a military hospital or clinic, and the diagnosis must be associated with a disclosed sexual trauma; 

  • Having both a pre-authorization and a referral; and  

  • Living within the specialty care drive time of approximately 60 minutes from Brooke Army Medical Center.  

For more information about the Sexual Assault Intensive Outpatient Program or the pilot study, contact the Psychological Health Intensive Outpatient Program patient care coordinator at 210-539-1066.