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Mental health clinic reflects on first year

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Schriever Mental Health Clinic stood up Oct. 1, 2013.  On his very first day at Schriever, Clinic Director Capt. Jordan Simonson said it was a privilege to start an operation from scratch and that he relished the opportunity.

Simonson and the mental health staff's goals included initiating treatment services for patients assigned to Schriever and providing mental health consultation to commanders on base.

From day one, Simonson and Mental Health Technician Charity Mattingly have offered individual counseling and treatment, special duty clearances, deployment clearances, preventative classes, such as sleep enhancement, and referrals to other specialty mental health services.

"People have made good use of us and we are proud to serve this installation," Simonson said. 

Since opening, the clinic has logged more than 1,400 patient encounters and treated more than 150 patients successfully.  More than 2,400 hours of travel time have been saved.

"That is just a portion of the time that we have returned to the mission," Simonson said. "In addition, the services we provide reduce our service members' missed time from work and prevents the development of mental health issues [which would require treatment] through education and skill enhancement."

Providing treatment is just one of the mental health staff's roles. Simonson not only manages the clinic, but he's also the director of psychological health for the installation. That means he's the senior mental health consultant to 50th Space Wing unit commanders.  When commanders have questions about mental health services, resiliency or suicide prevention, they go to Simonson and Mattingly.

During the past year the pair also stood up the 50th Space Wing Disaster Mental Health team.

"The DMH team assembles in response to any significant disaster or event that could have a negative mental health impact toward units or the base as a whole," Simonson said.

The team is made up of clinic staff, chaplains, Airman and Family Readiness Center staff and adjunct leaders such as the integrated delivery system leader. It conducts exercises annually and trains quarterly.

Jena Bienia, Schriever community support coordinator and the base's integrated delivery system chairperson, said the clinic staff have played an invaluable role in the IDS.

"In one of our functions as IDS members, we must analyze data that is generated by our semi-annual needs assessment," said Bienia said. "The results from the 2013 needs assessment survey data was released to us in March and Simonson played an integral part in not only analyzing the data but helping the IDS develop a community action plan as a result."

He was also charged with updating Schriever's suicide prevention program. 

"We've worked diligently to strengthen the program," he said.  "We're trying to foster resilience among members on base, and that comes, in part, from making sure that quality suicide prevention training is being provided and applied.  We're doing that through a partnership with commanders, unit training representatives and IDS helping agencies."

Looking ahead, Simonson and Mattingly will focus on outreach in the coming year and they plan to offer more classes such as stress management, which just kicked off this month.

"We want Schriever to be a model of resiliency and mental wellness," Simonson said. "Our partnership with the IDS is specifically aimed at increasing suicide prevention efforts in the workplace and ensuring service members have unimpeded access to mental health services."

"We encourage people to seek help early and know that we are here to help them," he added.  

The Schriever Mental Health Clinic is located inside the Schriever Clinic, Building 220.  For mental health questions or concerns, call the clinic at 567-4619.
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