CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine Corps Community Services is hosting the third annual Exceptional Family Member Program training from 8 a.m. until noon Tuesday.

The training focuses on family readiness officers, chaplains, sergeants major, first sergeants, career planners and others in leadership positions, said Suzanne Hill, the EFMP coordinator for Okinawa.

Hill said her goal is get the word out about Exceptional Family and what it can do for servicemembers.

“EFMP is a very misunderstood program, and there are major misconceptions that need to be dissolved,” Hill said. “We want the leaders to get accurate information and disseminate it to the Marines.”

The program provides assistance to active-duty servicemembers who have family members with special educational or medical needs, Hill said. Enrollment is mandatory for families with a member diagnosed with a physical, intellectual or emotional need, including asthma, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, autism or depression.

Those attending the training receive an overview of Exceptional Family and what it does for servicemembers and their families.

Hill said she is trying to get the word out because the organization is underutilized.

Anywhere between 10 percent to 13 percent of the U.S. population is classified as special needs, and the military is a reflection of the population, she said. But program enrollment is at a lower percentage.

“A lot of people don’t know what EFMP is, and there’s a stigma attached to it,” said Marine Maj. David Rosenberg, a supply and fiscal officer and Exceptional Family member. “There is a four-star general, the former Commandant Gen. Jones, who is enrolled in the program, so it goes to show that it doesn’t affect your career.”

Those attending training will also learn about Exceptional Family’s overseas screening committee, which determines if support is available on the island, Hill said.

“Over $2 million a year is spent on sending people back to the States and getting a replacement for them,” Hill said, referring to those with special needs that can’t be fulfilled. “We return one to two families a month.”

Marine Corps Exceptional Family Manager Belinda Sims will be present for the training. Groups that will have information tables set up at the training include New Parent Support Group; Women, Infants and Children; Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society; Marine Corps Family Team Building; and Lifestyle Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills.

An Exceptional Family town forum is slated for 1:30-3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the theater, where participants can ask questions about the program.

To register or for more information, call Hill at DSN 645-7806.

How families are rated

Families with special-needs members are rated for assistance.

Here’s a breakdown of the rating used by Exceptional Family Member Program:

• Category 1: Needs generally do not limit assignment.• Category 2: Pinpoint assignment overseas and within the continental United States.• Category 3: No overseas assignment.• Category 4: Assignment to only major medical areas within the continental United States.

— From staff reports

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