Osan Mental Health Flight sets sights on new targeted care program

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Skyler Combs
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Military members and their families can be subjected to a host of stressors, especially when stationed overseas and away from familiar support structures. In some cases, these can lead to substance abuse, self-harm and crippling mental health disorders.

According to a study by the U.S. Air Force Medical Readiness Agency, from 2014 to 2019, the number of active-duty personnel seeking clinical mental health care had doubled while the number of medical personnel remained relatively the same.

Enabling easier access to care that is specific to the needs of Osan servicemembers and their families is the goal of the 51st Operational Medical Readiness Squadron (OMRS) mental health flight.

The U.S. Air Force’s new targeted care program, which aims to improve patient experience and access to mental health and other non-medical resources, will soon be implemented at Osan.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Rachel Duchoslav, 51st OMRS mental health flight commander, has played a role in developing targeted care since its early stages in 2018.

“It’s a program that is near and dear to my heart,” said Duchoslav. “We started developing these ideas across multiple bases and it has just grown and grown.”

The process begins when a new patient is seen at the mental health clinic. Technicians, working together with the patient, determine whether they will be seen for specialized mental health treatment at the clinic or connect them with one of the many other non-medical base resources outside of the clinic.

Military and Family Life Counselors, chaplains and providers through Military One Source are just a few of the resources that may be better suited to fulfill the patient’s needs. If they decide to seek an avenue of care outside the clinic, the technician ensures the patient is connected to the helping agency before their initial appointment ends.

“A lot of our caseload is made up of patients that could benefit from a non-medical level of care,” said Maj. Tracy Golliday-Corley, 51st OMRS mental health flight director of psychological health. “The patients that have critical needs for specialty care have the possibility of getting delayed with longer wait times. With this new approach, it will improve those patients’ access to care quite significantly.”

The targeted care program, thoroughly tested at nine bases across eight U.S. Air Force Major Commands in 2022, has been shown to improve wait times for patients requiring specialty care.

“What they’ve found at these ‘pilot sites’ is that the amount of time people have to wait for a mental health assessment is drastically reduced,” said Duchoslav. “It can be anywhere from six to eight weeks down to one week to be seen for specialty care.”

According to Golliday-Corley, decreased overall wait times for patients that may have critical needs or are at risk of suicide can have huge implications, quickly enabling them to get help when it is needed most.

“It’s faster delivery of effective health care in a model that’s sustainable, given the amount of manning that we have,” concluded Duchoslav. “We want to provide care for our patients that need our help and connect those that don’t with the resource that is going to be most beneficial for them.”