Mental Health trailblazes new IOP in ACC

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Moody Air Force Base’s Mental Health Flight refocused its treatment strategy, Feb. 5, by instituting a new intensive outpatient program (IOP) that gives Airmen the help they need from Airmen like themselves.

This new program is designed to provide a more streamlined service for the nearly 7,000 appointments held by the Mental Health office each year, while maintaining the quality standard of excellence for each patient.

“It was (created) to keep our members in the mission, to keep them on base and (for us) to take ownership for more intensive treatment,” said Capt. Carlos Salazar, 23d Medical Operations Squadron (MDOS) Mental Health Flight psychologist.

Salazar explained that having Airmen treat Airmen on base in comparison to off base, creates a better sense of approachability and transparency with the therapy because the patient and facilitator share a common background and can better relate to the struggles that come with military life.

“With each patient we have in IOP, not only are we tailoring their needs to the military, we’re reminding them that ‘You’ll be going back to work when this is done, to keep that in the back of their minds,’” Salazar said. “However, we keep (Airmen) fighting in the mission, whether it’s a support or operational mission.”

According to Salazar, Moody is the first base in Air Combat Command to use IOP on-base, allowing them to see more patients and carry a larger case load without having to feel any more overwhelmed or burdened.

Salazar also put emphasis on the benefit of IOP sessions being group orientated, which allows patients to be co-facilitators. With that feature, providers can accelerate the patient’s healing, narrowing the normal 48 week process down to only four weeks.

“What it boils down to is that it increases our capabilities to give care,” Salazar said. “Essentially, we can take care of more people, so we do more with the same amount of people.

“(The patients) can help each other out, disclose, normalize and validate information for other patients in addition to having the provider be on top of everything.”

The structure of the four-week IOP is essentially broken up into two phases. First, there is a three week educational group phase that teaches patients about behavioral coping skills. This is followed by a culminating one-week processing group that has patients discuss what they learned in the educational phase in a semi-formal forum.

In addition to saving Mental Health man-hours, Salazar elaborated that while keeping the quality of their care at the forefront of their practice, IOP is projected to save the Air Force over $1 million dollars yearly.

“The purpose first and foremost is to help our patients, and to keep everything in-house,” Salazar said. “We’re making sure we’re the ones taking care of them, that we’re the ones making sure they’re back out into the fight as quickly as possible without cutting corners at the same time.”

Senior Airman Tabitha Alcott, 23d MDOS Mental Health Flight Alcohol, Drug and Prevention Treatment technician, is a facilitator of IOP and expressed her sentiments about the new program, saying that Airmen will be able to take their growth back into the mission.

“Our hope is that patients are able to come out of IOP in a better place than when they came in and that they gain the skills, coping mechanisms and knowledge that they need to overcome whatever is going on with them,” Alcott said.

Even though the program is still new to Moody, Salazar is confident that with IOP, they will be able to treat more Airmen on-base, getting them back to the mission in a healthy and positive way, as well as help the Air Force financially. Salazar said how this will align with Mental Health’s ethical principles of providing the greatest care while avoiding the most harm.

“It’s an aspirational goal for us to increase the welfare of our patients, so this is one of the ways we can embody that,” Salazar said.

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