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Mental Health Flight helps shape the future of the Air Force

Maj. Thomas Smith, Mental Health Flight clinical training director and 1st Lt. Crystal Ditto, clinical social worker demonstrate a counseling session in the Mental Health Flight, located in the Wright-Patterson Medical Center. 
(U.S. Air Force photo / Kimberly Gaither)

Maj. Thomas Smith, Mental Health Flight clinical training director and 1st Lt. Crystal Ditto, clinical social worker demonstrate a counseling session in the Mental Health Flight, located in the Wright-Patterson Medical Center. (U.S. Air Force photo / Kimberly Gaither)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Mental Health Flight engages in individual and group treatments daily. The clinic is comprised of three organizations/elements; Outpatient Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Family Advocacy.

These organizations help address mental health concerns by providing counseling, medical treatment and other types of assistance to active-duty and other Tri-Care beneficiaries.

"We have about 120 personnel attached, which includes the largest graduate medical education footprint for mental health in the Air Force," said Lt. Col. Colin Burchfield, Mental Health Flight commander and director of psychological health.

Mental health is defined as the ability to cope with life stressors and events in a functional manner, to maintain functional relationships and to maintain functional habits and behaviors.  Although everyone encounters daily stressors, the clinic is able to offer prevention and treatment methods to those who may need a better way to cope.

Recognizing many different kinds of stressors exist, this flight is the first in the Air Force to initiate new programs that address and assist the needs of those patients.

In 2015, an Intensive Outpatient Program started, focusing on a higher level of acuity treatment for people who are more high risk patients but do not need inpatient care.  This program serves a critical need but is not covered by Tri-Care in the community.

"We have a multi-disciplinary staff here of most of the mental health practitioners that are possible to have. We have also started an Integrated Health Consultant effort in Pediatrics, where a senior psychiatry resident is there to provide timely consultation on mental health concerns voiced by children, adolescents and their parents during their visit," said Burchfield.

In addition to the typical operations of mental health in the Air Force, the Mental Health Flight serves as a training site for psychiatry residency, psychology residency and social work residency programs. 

"We are one of the only three sites in the Air Force that has a psychiatric nurse practitioner internship. We also have a lot of trainees that are being supervised here, developing the future of the Air Force mental health," said Burchfield.

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program is available to help Airmen and their beneficiaries deal with alcohol and drug abuse by offering prevention and treatment services.

The Family Advocacy program is heavily involved with outreach dealing with domestic violence. This program now offers a victim advocate who is able to help victims throughout the process.

To help raise awareness of May being Mental Health month, the Mental Health Flight will host a Fit Walk, scheduled for May 20 at the Wright Field Fitness Center from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  The goal is to walk, run, or jog the two mile track during lunchtime.