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NEWS | March 19, 2019

IRAHC will soon transition retired behavioral health beneficiaries

By Rachael Tolliver

Dr. Laura Johnson, chief of IRAHC behavioral health, said, "the best provider for you is someone who you like and who you feel comfortable with enough to trust them with your story. It is all about therapeutic alliance. Find someone you feel good about seeing." (Photo Credit: Sgt. Jesse Carruthers)

The first group transitioned will be youth-age patients because they will take longer to place, said Teddi Gray, the administrative officer for the deputy commander of clinical services. Adult family members would transition in conjunction with the youth group followed by retired military high-utilizers and then the remaining retired military patients, she added. 

The Beneficiary Transition Cell will have two representatives located in the behavioral health building to assist patients during the transition with things like locating providers, assisting with records transfers if requested, and coordinating exit appointments. 

Retiree patients can call the BTC staff at 502-626-6188, or as a dependent call 502-626-6170, to schedule an appointment. or email them at usarmy.knox.medcom-irach.mbx.beneficiary-transition-cell@mail.mil. 

Dr. Laura Johnson, chief of IRAHC behavioral health, said she and her team will relocate from their current building into the new clinic when the facility is complete. She added that the team will fit well in the space, designed specifically for BH, after the Defense Health Agency streamline the focus of the providers assigned to military treatment facilities toward active duty personnel. 

"Our primary mission will be the readiness of the fighting force, and refocusing our efforts will allow us to specialize, and provide the highest quality of care to our active duty service members," she explained. "This decision by DHA has cut our department strength by 66% from its peak of 93 personnel in 2011. With this reduction in personnel we can now join the primary care provider team in the new facility to ensure integrated health care."

Johnson described behavioral health care as health care that focuses on emotional and mental well-being both of which are equally important. In fact, mental well-being can have an impact on one's physical well-being and vice versa. But mental health care, or therapy, is often a misunderstood concept. 

Sometimes the fear of the unknown, or the notion that therapy involves lying on a couch talking about your childhood turns people away, she added. Other deterrents could be a bad previous experience with a therapist, the belief that a civilian won't be able to relate to a veteran's experience, or that there will be judgment leveled by the therapist. 

But she said it is important to know that a patient can always choose to see a different therapist. 

"You should feel comfortable with your therapist, you should feel a connection with your therapist," she explained. "Change is difficult for everyone and we know that the relationship that you cultivate with your mental health provider is unique and takes time to build up that level of trust and feeling supported. During this time of change it will be especially important to find a provider you feel comfortable working with.

"The good news is that if you have done it once, you can do it again and in fact there may be therapeutic benefit moving on to a new provider and tackling the most recent concerns. Further, our well-being is ultimately our responsibility and this is a huge step in the right direction."

Retired beneficiaries and their families are encouraged to be proactive in finding their next network provider because it gives them the widest variety of providers from which to choose--before new patient slots are closed. 

Most therapists do not/cannot advertise so word of mouth is a wonderful way to find someone, Johnson noted. Asking friends, or calling the provider and talking to them to get a feel for their style are also good ways to search out new providers.

There are always arguments about what makes the best provider -- is it education level or therapy orientation?

"In reality the best provider for you is someone who you like and who you feel comfortable with enough to trust them with your story," she added. "It is all about therapeutic alliance. Find someone you feel good about seeing."

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