DOD: Periodic health assessment to include mental health portion

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DOD: Periodic health assessment to include mental health portion

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Angela Coleman, 88th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health Flight nurse manager, in her office with the Wright-Patterson Medical Center Aug. 8. Coleman is one of the people contacting members to schedule their mental health assessment. (U.S. Air Force photo/R.J. Oriez)

The periodic health assessment, required for all active-duty members, now includes a mental health assessment, aimed to better ensure members are deployable and to promote individual medical readiness.

Based on the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress made the mental health portion of the assessment a Department of Defense requirement that went into effect July 31, after determining a better view of suicide awareness and mental health conditions was needed. The National Guard and Reserve members will begin this portion in late August.

“Everyone across the DoD, active-duty wise, is accomplishing the mental health assessment for any of their PHAs that started on that date and after,” said Maj. Gretchen Haywood, Aerospace and Operational Medicine Flight commander.

The requirement for the periodic health assessment has not changed, but now members will experience the mental health portion, too. Members will continue to fill out the periodic health assessment questionnaire online. After the evaluation of the questionnaire, public health will contact members to schedule their mental health assessment.

“Only active-duty members who are on flying status, have a face-to-face appointment with the flight surgeon and are the only ones who require a physical,” Haywood said.

Most Airmen will complete their scheduled MHAs via telephone with a medical provider. It’s important that members keep their scheduled appointment as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has more than 4,000 mental health assessments to complete annually. Since most mental health assessments will be conducted by telephone, members should call in from a location where they can have a private conversation about their current mental health status.

Haywood added, the same questionnaire will be used when members deploy or when they returned from deployment. Following both the record review and the MHA completion, that information is then sent to the primary care manager, who then reviews everything and finishes out the PHA.

“All active-duty members should have received a message through MyPers outlining the process,” said Haywood.

As with the periodic health assessment, the mental health assessment is also required to be completed annually and is the responsibility of anyone on active-duty status.

“We are looking to identify any sort of medical concerns that people have that would make them not deployable, so if something is identified that is a non-deployable issue, then we need to resolve that and go from there,” said Haywood.

Depending on the medical need identified or requested by the patient during their PHAQ, Aerospace and Operational Medicine may make a referral to public health or primary care. This proper medical review helps make sure everybody maintains their medical readiness.

“Ultimately we just want to make sure that people are medically ready to deploy,” said Haywood.

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