TORII STATION, Okinawa — An Army liaison housing officer should help alleviate some of the confusion and frustration soldiers and families face here when seeking housing, officials said this week.

The liaison is expected on board within a month and will work with Kadena Air Base housing officials on housing assignments, Col. Robert Waltemeyer, the U.S. Army Garrison-Japan commander, said Tuesday during an Army Family Action Plan steering committee meeting.

Housing assignments were among 44 issues addressed, as the committee looked at ways to improve quality-of-life issues recently raised by soldiers and families.

During last month’s Army Family Action Plan conference, community members voiced concerns over perceived preferential treatment given to airmen regarding adequate housing.

Kadena’s housing office oversees housing for all services on Okinawa.

"This is the kind of perception I know is not true, but it can be detrimental to good community," Waltemeyer said.

Army Col. James Woodard, 10th Support Group commander, asked housing officials to provide a demographic layout of where and how Army members are housed throughout the island to get an accurate picture and to help dispel rumors.

Progress on all issues will be reviewed again at the June 18 committee meeting, said AFAP community life officer Deborah Coubrough.

Also during Tuesday’s discussions, officials from the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa and Kadena’s 18th Medical Group agreed to work with Army officials to increase awareness about patients’ rights, Tricare coverage and enrollment, and alternatives to emergency room care.

Patients have said lengthy emergency room wait times are a problem, but hospital officials said patients are encouraged to use a medical phone service through which an on-call physician can determine if the ER is the best option.

Waltemeyer said it was a matter of educating patients about their options and that it was the patients’ responsibility to stay informed.

A clinical psychologist is expected to start Monday to focus on the mental health needs of soldiers and families, particularly for troops returning from combat zones and readjusting to family life, Woodard said.

"We have a large population, and it’s not just soldiers; it’s families too," Woodard said.

A shortage of mental health providers is an Army-wide issue, Woodard said.

The committee voted to form a subcommittee to review recommendations raised at the conference about deployments for servicemembers whose spouse also is in the service.

Conference delegates said dual deployments make reintegration into family life tough, particularly for troops who return with physical and mental problems.

"This is an extremely complex issue that needs to be addressed at the Department of Army level," Woodard said.

The subcommittee will draft an information paper with recommendations and concerns to submit to the Department of the Army for review, Coubrough said.

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