JBLM units combine, extend health care in Afghanistan

Karl Stubbeman, T2 Telehealth Program manager, trains Spc. Michael McIntyre, 1972nd COSC behavioral health specialist, on telemental health counseling techniques.
By Joe Jimenez March 28th, 2013 Can you get health care through your computer? Not yet, but the 1972nd Combat Operational Stress Control Detachment recently used their computers to dramatically increase their services to warriors in Afghanistan. Read more... The 1972nd COSC, an Army Reserve unit at the Coby Schwab Reserve Center on JBLM, returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in January. During their deployment, they used technology and special training from another organization on JBLM to extend their reach to remote units and forward operating bases. The unit, one of two COSCs in the country, provides behavioral health for Army units in Afghanistan. Forward deployed prevention teams provide assessments and care for Soldiers exposed to traumatic combat events. Tod Ayers, a psychology technician at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, better known as T2, was also a member of the deploying unit. Before he was mobilized, he arranged for his organization to receive behavioral training from T2. “During this deployment, we increased the number of soldiers we were able to see by more than 700 using the computers in the units and T2’s training,” said SSG Ayers, detachment NCOIC for the 1972nd COSC. “In my last deployment, my unit had about 3,100 clinical encounters without using the equipment. With the T2 training, we had more encounters in nine months than we had in a year-long deployment without the training.” T2 staff trained the detachment how to deliver behavioral health care using the computers as video conferencing stations. Although computer video connections are used by many deployed warriors to stay connected with their families at home, it was not used for behavioral health care in the field. The training taught the psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatrist nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, occupational therapists and other medical specialists the proper techniques for counseling with a patient that would normally be delivered in a face-to-face setting. “In some cases, the TBH (tele-behaviorial health) care enabled us to keep a Soldier on the line instead of sending him back for a week,” said Ayers. In addition to clinical care at the FOBs, the detachment’s forward teams also trained combat medics how to use the equipment to connect with the unit’s behavioral health at larger FOBs, extending a virtual presence to many locations in Afghanistan. Before redeploying, the 1972nd COSC trained their replacement unit and the other COSC detachment in the techniques of TBH care. Ayers, representing the detachment commander, presented the staff of T2 March 22 with a flag that was flown over the Warrior Recovery Center in Kandahar in appreciation for the training. “We could not have helped as many as we did without the training,” Ayers said.