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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Mental health experts from a Department of Defense task force will be in Kaiserslautern later this month to hear from troops and their families.

The meeting is scheduled for 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Jan. 31 at Kaiserslautern’s Vogelweh Community Center.

“Members want to hear from beneficiaries about all aspects of mental health care, including access, quality — even the stigma associated with seeking this care,” according to a news release. “They are also interested in understanding how deployments impact children and spouses, and about care received from civilian practitioners.”

The meeting is designed to foster frank discussions between servicemembers, their family members and the task force, the release stated. The forum is not open to the public or media.

Almost 20 percent of troops returning from Iraq have reported mental health problems, and 35 percent of Iraq war veterans accessed mental health services in the year after returning home, according to an article by Army doctors published in the March 1 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Congress directed the establishment of the 14-member task force as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2006.

The task force will submit a report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates in May that will include an assessment and recommendations for improving the effectiveness of mental health services provided to servicemembers, according to the release.

No later than six months after receiving the report, Gates will develop a plan based on the recommendations and submit it to Congress.

Those who may not wish to speak to the task force at the Kaiserslautern meeting or who are unable to attend can submit their comments to http://www.ha.osd. mil/DHB/mhtf/submission.cfm. For more information on the DOD mental health task force, visit http://www.ha.osd.mil/ DHB/mhtf/default.cfm.


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