TriCare to Provide Free Confidential Counseling for Military Dependents

TriCare, the government-provided health plan for eligible military dependents now offers secure online and telephone counseling services.

This article originally appeared online at DrPullen.com, part of the HCPLive Network.

As our US Military personnel face not only harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq, but repeated tours of duty, their families -- dependents in military jargon -- also face the difficulty of separation and anxiety and depression. Effective just hours ago, through TriWest, the Western US region of TriCare, the government provided health plan for eligible military dependents, has opened secure online and telephone counseling services for dependents. This can be accessed confidentially and without cost to eligible military dependents. The new Behavioral Health Portal offers a live-chat line by phone or instant messaging with professional counselors called the TriCare Behavioral Health Contact Center. It offers the Tricare Assistance Program, with the acronym TRIAP, much like many private EAP (employee assistance programs) for confidential immediate access to help. It even offers video conferencing with professional behavioral health providers in a program called TriWest Tele-behavioral Health Care Network for those who prefer a visual aspect to their on-line counseling. For those more interested in just finding on-line resources in a library format, they have a virtual library of resources called TriWest’s Behavioral Health Portal.

This is good news for military dependents in the TriWest region. Look for similar programs in other TriCare regions also. There is increasing concern about the suicide rates among active duty personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, for the first time, the suicide rate among active duty males was higher than in age-matched civilians. In 2009 through late November more active duty personnel died of suicide than were killed in either Afghanistan or Iraq (at least 234 suicides vs. 297 killed in Afghanistan and 144 killed in Iraq). Numbers are not available for civilian dependents of active duty personnel, but this has to be a concern for them also.

If you know of any military dependents who may benefit from these services please forward this article to them, or let them know of this newly available service. Our armed forces members and their families face tremendous stresses as the deployments happen over and over again. They deserve the best we can offer, and this seems to be a step in the right direction.

Edward Pullen, MD, is a board-certified family physician practicing in Puyallup, WA. He blogs at DrPullen.com — A Medical Bog for the Informed Patient.