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JBA mental health clinic treats pandemic-related emotional pain

By Senior Airman Xiomara M. Martinez 316th Wing Public Affairs

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From one-on-one psychological therapy to psych testing to couples counseling, the Joint Base Andrews 316th Operation Medical Readiness Squadron mental health flight provides a variety of resources, which are especially important when individuals are facing stress and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An August 2020 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that more than 40% of American adults struggled with anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, substance use or suicidal thoughts caused by the pandemic. That is why the 316th OMRS’s ability to ensure their resources are available to patients has never been more critical than in September: National Suicide Prevention Month.

“The pandemic presented the world with a challenge many people never faced,” said Staff Sgt. Javonte Coleman, 316th OMRS mental health clinic NCO in charge. “COVID-19 forced people to be away from their families, limited travel and largely changed how people operate daily. All of this coupled with the stress individuals experience, in my opinion heightened the need for mental healthcare. Now more than ever, people need reassurance everything will be okay.”

Despite the pandemic, the mental health flight’s operations are providing all services for patients and continuing to see all patients who need assistance.

“In the facility there is less foot traffic arriving and most providers transitioned to seeing patients virtually,” said Coleman. “With the aid of multiple communication platforms, the transition from face-to-face care to virtual has been seamless.”

During the start of the pandemic, the mental health flight developed a telework plan. Interactions remained virtual for several months until deemed safe by personnel to return for semi-normal operations. Patients can choose whether they’d like a virtual or in-person appointment.

Additionally, the mental health flight staff takes various precautionary measures to ensure the safety of employees and patients.

“As a whole we ramped up our infection control, which includes wiping down computers after each use, sanitizing our blood pressure cuffs, wearing masks and ensuring patients are sitting at least six feet apart when in the waiting area,” said Coleman.

Despite challenges members of the 316th Wing have been facing during COVID-19, the mental health flight is noticing the effectiveness of new processes and receiving patient approval.

“I believe the measures we take are extremely operative,” Coleman added. “Making the choice to telework and reduce the amount of patients seen in office has significantly reduced the risk of spreading the infection. Our priority has always been, and remains to be, the safety of our patients and staff. Most patients gave positive feedback and loved receiving care from the comfort of their own homes.”

Maj. Ryan Kalpinski, 316th OMRS flight commander, believes his flight has been very innovative in treating patients’ mental health while safeguarding physical health.

“I think my flight has really adapted and provided services more efficiently,” said Kalpinski.
“They basically renovated various virtual behavioral healthcare services and took care of any challenges that headed their way with ease.”

Walk-in hours at the clinic have not changed. Anyone in crisis seeking mental health care may stop by the clinic Monday-Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or call the JBA mental health clinic at 240-857-7186, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline at 800-950-NAMI (6264) or the Crisis Textline: Text TALK to 741741.