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Criticism of military mental health programs and the Army’s own concerns that soldiers who need care aren’t getting it have prompted the Army to look into the military community’s perceptions of its mental health services.

Europe Regional Medical Command is looking for volunteers to participate in an online survey and in focus groups conducted by a private consulting firm to help identify barriers to mental health care and problems within the system.

The Army’s research shows that there may be a fairly substantial need for behavioral health care, said Lt. Col. Gary Tryniszewski, director of soldier and family support services for ERMC.

“We know that research is showing that 25 to 30 percent of soldiers returning will have some sort of behavioral health problem within the first year,” he said.

“I think there’s a lot more people in need of care, but don’t get to us for some reason.”

He doesn’t think it’s because of a lack of resources. “Based on what we’re seeing now, we have a greater capacity to see more people,” Tryniszewski said.

A number of factors might keep soldiers and their families from looking to the Army for help, Tryniszewski said, such as a stigma against mental health care, awareness of information about how and where to access care, knowledge of how quickly they can get it and whether it’s readily available in their community.

Research into these and other issues will be conducted by BearingPoint, a consulting firm hired by the Army’s medical command.

“It’s looking really at every aspect, of not only how people perceive it, but how they receive it,” Tryniszewski said.

The company already has a survey available online, and beginning Monday it will host focus groups at various locations around Europe. Each session is expected to last about an hour. Depending on the time, breakfast or lunch will be provided.

The Army will use BearingPoint’s findings to try to eliminate barriers to care, Tryniszewski said.

“If we were to break all the barriers down, I’d say we could be quickly overwhelmed,” he said. But, he added, “We’re also monitoring this on a quarterly basis, so we’re not going to get [blindsided].”

In Europe, BearingPoint is hoping to get mostly active-duty members to participate in the focus groups. Optimally, the researchers would like to have a mix that is 50 percent active duty who have used behavioral health services, and 50 percent who have not, said Lauren Roberts, a BearingPoint research analyst. But, she said, “We’re pretty flexible.”

So far, mostly family members and school staff have volunteered to participate in the focus groups. In some areas, no soldiers have signed up, Roberts said.

The online survey, available at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=405082773485, takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Survey participants who have problems completing it or have other questions are encouraged to call BearingPoint at 703-747-4011 in the States.

Survey participants can also volunteer to participate in a focus group in their area through a link on the survey Web site.

Focus group scheduleBearingPoint is conducting a series of focus group sessions at the following times and locations:

Monday — noon to 1 p.m. at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Building 3792 (Headquarters), Room 112.Tuesday — noon to 1 p.m. at Baumholder Army Health Clinic, Building 8740, Headquarters Conference Room, second floor.Wednesday — noon to 1 p.m. at Heidelberg Hospital, Nachrichten Kaserne, Building 3617, Room 432, fourth floor, Psychiatry Clinic.Thursday — noon to 1 p.m. at Hanau Health Clinic conference room, Building 245, New Argonner Kaserne.Friday — 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Ledward Barracks, Schweinfurt, Education Building, No. 242.Dec. 11: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Würzburg Hospital, Building 345, fourth floor conference room.Dec. 13 and 14: noon to 1 p.m. Vicenza Health Clinic, Building 113, Room 35.Anyone interested in participating can contact Lauren Roberts at Lauren.Roberts@bearingpoint.com for additional information.

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