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    Remaining ready and resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic response

    Remaining ready and resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic response

    In early July, at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state officials, U.S. Army Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, began to deploy hundreds of military medical support personnel throughout Texas to support hospitals in the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    The first to arrive, an 85-member enhanced Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force (UAMTF), from the 627th Hospital Center, Ft. Carson, Colorado, began treating patients at five San Antonio hospitals, July 9th.

    Since then, care has expanded to an additional nine cities in Texas, augmenting 10 hospitals throughout the region. This includes additional UAMTF teams, as well as four U.S. Navy Rural Rapid Response Teams and a U.S. Navy Acute Care Team.

    In addition to the military medical providers supporting area hospitals, the U.S. Army deployed Behavioral Health and Religious Support Teams as part of a Resiliency Support Operation in the region. These teams are comprised of psychologists, occupational therapists, occupational therapist specialists, behavioral health specialists, chaplains, and religious affairs specialists.

    Throughout the state, there are 10 behavioral health teams, and 10 chaplains. Some of these forces are from the 98th Medical Detachment, Combat Operational Stress Control, while some are organic to the UAMTF to which they are assigned.

    The purpose of the Behavioral Health and religious Support Teams is to provide health and wellness support to service members, patients and as appropriate, civilian staff, according to Col. Karl W. Brewer, MD., Chief Medical Officer for Task Force Med.

    “This is a very dynamic, demanding and emotional taxing environment for our medical teams. The behavioral health and religious support teams bring a stability and calm to the situation and are trained to recognize those who are struggling and provide support,” said Brewer.
    According to Maj. Tyler Russell, a clinical psychologist with the 98th Medical Detachment, Combat Operational Stress Control, and part of the behavioral health team at Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio, Texas., the role of the behavioral health team is to help provide resiliency and mental health support to the team of medical providers.

    “Resiliency is the ability to bounce back when you find yourself in a very stressful or overwhelming situation,” Russell said. “Certainly, being here dealing with the complexity and difficult cases related to COVID, that takes an emotional toll on the people involved in that care. So, our role is to help the team work on that bouncing back and helping them stay resilient so they can continue the mission for as long as we’re here.”
    “Another way of building resiliency is just to be present,” said Spc. Juron Toliver, a behavioral health specialist and member of a behavioral health team assigned to support COVID-19 operations at Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio, Texas. “Sometimes you do need someone to talk to, and there’s no problem with that,” he said.

    As part of Rural Rapid Response Team Two, working out of Fort Duncan Regional Medical Center in Eagle Pass, Texas, Hospital Corpsman First Class Daniel Allen, a respiratory therapist from Portsmouth Medical Center in Portsmouth, VA., discussed the benefits of the teams, “Since we’ve been here, it’s been their number one mission to engage with us. To make sure we’re feeling not just happy, but cared for.” Allen added that the presence of someone to talk to at the start or end of a shift has been phenomenal.

    When it comes to the religious support teams, the support is a bit different than what is provided by the behavioral health teams, said Lt. Col. Andrew Brennan, a chaplain and member of a religious support team supporting medical providers at Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio, Texas.

    “Our primary job is to perform and provide spiritual and religious support for our service members,” said Brennan. “That can include things like worship services and prayer times, devotional times, and pastoral care and counseling.”

    “The most important thing is just to be available, to let them know they have someone they can come talk to. Someone they can pray with, someone that will listen to them, and also be there to provide any support that they need,” said Capt. Emeka Okiwe, a chaplain providing support at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas.

    In the San Antonio area, the behavioral health and religious support teams offer two opportunities to enhance physical and emotional wellness with a run/walk at one of the local trails each week. Maintaining holistic wellness is critical to the resilience required to meet the mission requirements of caring for patients. Additionally, the chaplain offers a multi-denominational devotion each Sunday.

    “To date, we haven’t seen a pandemic of this nature affect the entire country. One thing this makes clear is that behavioral health is so flexible and we’re able to be used in any setting,” said Capt. Hughes Choy, a clinical psychologist and member of a behavioral health team supporting medical providers at Fort Duncan Regional Medical Center in Eagle Pass, Texas. “This mission is so unique in that it demonstrates the adaptability and flexibility we need to have a psychologist and behavioral health providers to meet the needs of the mission here.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 09.01.2020
    Date Posted: 09.03.2020 19:01
    Story ID: 377269
    Location: TX, US

    Podcast Hits: 0

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