Clinic helps Fort Drum military spouses, children cope with lifestyle changes
Watertown Daily Times
WATERTOWN, N.Y. — As a veteran who served nine years in the Navy, Jerry M. Brown knows the emotional and psychological toll that military spouses and their children experience when soldiers deployed overseas leave the family nest.
That’s why this fall he started Mountain Community Wellness Clinic in at 210 Court St. in Watertown, where families with soldiers at Fort Drum receive one-on-one counseling on to a range of issues that stem from being apart from their loved ones.
The center was started in October by Mr. Brown — a licensed clinical social worker — to meet the demand in the community to provide psychiatric services for military families. Mr. Brown and another social worker offer counseling services at the clinic, along with a full-time psychiatrist from Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, who joined the staff this month and meets with patients remotely using videoconference technology.
“We can’t get psychiatrists to come to Watertown and stay in the community, and it’s been a problem for decades,” said Mr. Brown, who worked at Fort Drum as an independent social worker before launching the clinic. “There’s typically a three- to six-month waiting time, but we can see patients here within two weeks.”
Right now, the center serves only spouses and children of military families. It accepts insurance plans from Tricare, Military OneSource and Martin’s Point Health Care.
By collaborating with licensed psychiatrist Gene Tinelli from Upstate Medical, the clinic is able to diagnose patients with disorders such as anxiety and depression and prescribe medications, Mr. Brown said. Using a television with a camera, patients are able to meet one-on-one with Dr. Tinelli at his office in Syracuse for an hour to talk about their concerns.
While Dr. Tinelli has sessions only with adult patients, social workers at the clinic also offer counseling for children ages 5 and up with behavioral and psychological issues. Mr. Brown plans eventually to have a children’s doctor at the clinic to offer teleconferencing visits.
Sometimes, military spouses simply need someone to talk to, said Mr. Brown, who often refers patients to other agencies for services. He often spends time talking with spouses about the daily stresses involved with living alone and raising children.
“Spouses are often worrying about the safety of soldiers and feel lonely,” he said. “Most of the folks we deal with have anxiety or depression issues, and it helps them to find out they’re not alone. Or sometimes they just need help coping with everyday stress.”
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the center at 221-4381.