PRMC’s Tele-behavioral health cell officially opens its doors in Hawaii

| December 8, 2011 | 1 Comment

Jan Clark
Tripler Army Medical Center Public Affairs



HONOLULU — Behavioral health care for service members and their dependents throughout the Pacific, and outlying distant areas, is now available, using tele-health technology.

The Pacific Regional Medical Command’s Tele-behavioral Health, or TBH cell, officially opened its doors, here, Nov. 28.

“This event represents partnership between regional commands, local commands, facilities and providers of different disciplines, all working towards a shared common goal,” said Lt. Eduardo Cua, U.S. Public Health Services Corps, and director, TBH and Surge Support.

In 2009, redeploying Soldiers from Tripler Army Medical Center participated in a Virtual Behavioral Health pilot, in support of the Army chief of staff’s directive to provide all Soldiers with behavioral health screening and treatment.

The pilot program used three counseling options: face-to-face; high bandwidth video tele-conferencing, or VTC; and low bandwidth Defense Connect Online, or DCO.

The pilot program discovered that these alternate means of reaching Soldiers were well received.

“Tele-health is not an option for us; it is an absolute necessity,” said Dr. Ray Folen, chief, Department of Psychology, TAMC.

“It’s hard to believe, but we live in the most isolated population center in the world,” Folen said. “It’s thousands of miles from the Hawaiian Islands to anywhere else. It is 2,400 miles from here to California. Japan is more than 3,800 miles away.

“To this isolation, add the fact that PRMC’s area of responsibility covers 52 percent of the Earth’s surface,” he said.

The program is also effective in reducing barriers to care, stigma, travel time and costs, as well as improving health care outcomes.

Also, the pilot program demonstrated how to streamline and improve behavioral health access for Soldiers by identifying symptoms and the risk of suicide and treatment options to improve patient outcomes.

The pilot results indicate that Soldiers like it and, in many cases, prefer virtual TBH. It’s available and offered to those service members who want to use it.

“(Service members) like it, and that’s a tough sell,” said Brig. Gen. Keith Gallagher, commander, PRMC and TAMC.

“If you look at behavioral health and you look at the stigma that is out there, getting past the ‘what are you going to think about me’ is a challenge,” Gallagher said. “Today, the tele-behavioral health cell is a robust operation serving Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen, as well as their dependents worldwide.

“In the Pacific, we offer care to Schofield Barracks’ patients, the TAMC community, as well as Japan, Okinawa and Korea.

In addition, the TBH cell has responded to the behavioral health needs in Alaska, Texas and Kansas, and partnerships are being forged in the neighbor islands to support our Guard and Reserve components,” he added.

“We at TAMS and PRMC are proud to have, here on the TAMC campus, the means to meet the needs of our service members and their families during this critical time for the Army and sister services,” Gallagher concluded.

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