Army works to hire counselors for school stress program

Organizers say clinical teams will not be complete when classes start


BAMBERG, Germany — An Army pilot program aimed at helping students cope with the stress of a parent heading off to war will not be fully operational by the time school starts Monday because not enough staff has been hired yet.

Schools in Grafenwöhr and Baumholder were chosen for the program because many of the units in those areas frequently deploy to combat zones, officials have said.

In Baumholder, two clinicians are in the process of being hired, and a third will likely be hired soon, said Maj. Louis Land, director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center who is heading the program in the Baumholder area.

The program will likely be up and running in the next month or two, but not in time for the start of school, said Land in response to an e-mailed query.

The Grafenwöhr program is in the process of hiring a psychologist as the fourth member of the clinical team, said Brian Olden, deputy chief for behavioral health service for the Bavaria program. Olden said the school will be ready to take referrals when classes begin.

The program, part of the Family Support Services, allows children — with parental permission — to be seen by mental health practitioners at the school and eliminates time spent going to a clinic. However, students will still have the option of seeing mental health providers at the clinic.

According to Maj. David Cabrera, acting director for the Europe Regional Medical Command’s Soldier and Family Support Services Office, the two communities were chosen because of their troop and family density levels and their willingness to participate in the program. Three of the Army’s four main combat units in Europe are located in Grafenwöhr and Baumholder. The 172nd Infantry Brigade out of Grafenwöhr is currently deployed to Iraq.

Those deployments take a heavy toll on children, according to Harvey Gerry, chief of education for Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe. Deployments require children to adapt to unexpected changes and events in their lives, he said in an earlier interview.

In a 2008 Department of Defense survey of 13,000 active-duty spouses, 60 percent of parents reported increased levels of fear or anxiety in their children, and 23 percent felt their children coped poorly or very poorly while a parent was deployed.

The Grafenwöhr/Vilseck military community is home to some 8,900 troops, 1,000 civilians and 13,650 family members, according to the Army. The new program in Grafenwöhr will consist of four clinical staff members and one administrative person, according to Olden. The clinicians will be providing care for an estimated 2,300 students.

Baumholder hosts about 4,280 troops, 400 civilians and 7,080 family members. Its program will consist of two child psychologists and a social worker full-time for the community’s three schools, which have a total of about 1,000 students, Land said.

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