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NEWS | Aug. 26, 2015

Providing Mental Health

By Airman 1st Class Thomas T. Charlton 628 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

(This article is part of Joint Base Charleston's Integrated Delivery System series. These stories focus on an IDS program, highlighting their services.)

While the challenges of working in the military can be physically and mentally demanding, there is an Air Force support organization to assist those who may feel confused, stressed, overwhelmed or out of control.

The 628th Medical Croup Mental Health clinic helps Airmen, dependents, civilian employees and other military branches with treatment and recovery from mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse or everyday stress. The clinic staff consists of two social workers, three psychologists and three psychiatrists.

Major Sonia Pons, 628th MDG Mental Health flight commander, offers treatment to joint base beneficiaries, emphasizing medical group safety and ensuring the 24/7 emergency on-call service is always available. Additionally, whenever possible, Pons educates JB Charleston about substance abuse and treatment.

"Our mission is to maintain and enhance mental health for the joint base population," said Pons, "We provide many avenues for our patients."

When it comes to getting treatment, it starts with an appointment and an assessment to determine what kind of help might be needed. Whether a psychiatrist, who can prescribe you medication, or a psychologist or even a social worker, is the best option, the Mental Health clinic will do their best to find the right treatment plan for their patients.

To take advantage of the Mental Health clinic's services it is as simple as walking in or calling to make an appointment. No referral is necessary. Occasionally, an individual is given a Commander Directed Evaluation from their commander to report to the Mental Health Clinic for an assessment. In these cases, the commander wants to ensure the person is mission ready and is doing well.

The Mental Health clinic sees about 1,200 new patients every year for treatment and recovery.

"Usually when people are being seen, it is mainly due to occupational and or relationship problems as well as induced sleep disturbances and anxiety," said Pons.

Inside the Mental Health clinic, there are the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Training  and the Family Advocacy programs. Both provide routes to assist patients in their recovery.

Mental Health, ADAPT and FAP are important parts of the Integrated Delivery System. IDS is a working group consisting of organizations providing family services and offering prevention and education activities related to individual, family and community concerns.

Tech. Sgt. Laurie Gutierrez, 628th MDG ADAPT non-commissioned officer in charge, has been in the Air Force for more than eight years.

"What I like about my job is that it is very interesting," Gutierrez said. "It is always something new and, being there to help others is so rewarding, just like the other jobs in the medical field."
Mental Health often gets a bad reputation, but Gutierrez believes otherwise.

"Some people fear coming to Mental Health thinking that the stigma could negatively affect their career," Gutierrez said. "But the reality is, if you wait until things are really bad, that is what will impact your career. Coming in before the situation is truly a problem will minimize the effects on your career."

"The beautiful thing about mental health is it has the most cohesion, teamwork and transparency of anywhere else, because we know people," said Pons.

Making these differences as a team has unified them all together to help improve the patients' experience and outcome.

The Mental Health Clinic's skilled staff and established programs can help those who feel confused, stressed, overwhelmed or out of control, overcome their obstacles and return to a fully functional lifestyle.

For more information about JB Charleston's Mental Health Clinic or to set up an appointment, please call (843) 963-6852.