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Advocacy program provides assistance to reservists, guardsmen

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- When dealing with life stressors, reservists and their families may not know where to turn to for help and that’s when the Air Force Reserve Command’s Psychological Health Advocacy Program can step in and guide them in the right direction.

Born from the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, which is a Defense Department-wide effort to promote the well-being of Air National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, the PHAP office was designed by AFRC to assist reservists and guardsmen by connecting them to resources for whatever life challenges they may be dealing with.

The PHAP office, located at the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, oversees the north region, covers 23 states and services approximately 24,000 reservists and their family members. The staff of two -- both reservists -- averages 70 caseloads daily.

Unlike an active-duty member that is located at a military installation and has resources available within an arm’s reach, reservists and their family members who are not near installations may sometimes feel disconnected.

The PHAP office assists reservists and their family members by connecting them to the appropriated resources in their local area.

“There are many resources out there, but many of them have specific criteria to qualify for assistance, so we are designed to help point them in the right direction,” said Pamela Boyd, a PHAP outreach specialist.

In addition to providing resource assistance, the PHAP offers outreach or morale calls to requesting reservists and families during all the stages of deployment: predeployment, during and post-deployment.

“People think because our name has psychological health in it, we are just geared toward mental health assistance,” Boyd said. “But if you think about it, psychological health can come from any type of life stressors.”

Boyd said she looks at each case like an onion. “There could be a lot of things going on, so you keep peeling the layers to find out what we can help with.

“It could be a child whose parent is deploying and since their home is not near a military environment, teachers at that child’s school may not be familiar with the military and deployments and doesn’t understand how the child can be affected,” Boyd said. “PHAP can step in and assist the school by providing them information on deployments on how they can help provide support to that child.”

Brittney Snider, a registered nurse and case facilitator, said the PHAP can help with other situations, such as a grandparent taking care of a deployed member’s child: The child needs to go to the dentist, but the grandparent is not familiar with TRICARE. The PHAP office can assist them with the process.

“When reservists go active duty or deploy, sometimes it can be a financial burden for a family because it could be a loss of income in comparison to the salary of their civilian job,” Snider said. “We can provide the family with available resources for financial assistance. For instance, we could provide them grant information and an application that could help offset a child’s extracurricular activities.”

Lt. Col. Michael Larson, a reservist who is currently an individual mobilization augmentee assigned to Air Force Materiel Command, said the PHAP office has been very helpful to him and his family.

“When I needed assistance with finding help for my mom who has Alzheimer’s, the PHAP responded very quickly,” Larson said. “They were able to help me navigate through all the different helping agencies to select one that would benefit my mother the best. The also helped me find low-cost transportation options for my mom when she could no longer drive and then with finding a nursing home.

“I had never had to deal with getting help for my mom before,” Larson said. “My mother lives out of state and I did not know where to begin.”

Snider said the PHAP works, but sometimes people don’t take an advantage of it.

“We are here 24/7 and always have our phones on,” he said.

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