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Team Whiteman offers new resource for mental health

  • Published
  • By Phill Stuart
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The 509th Medical Group Mental Health Flight at Whiteman Air Force Base offers monthly classes for service members who are struggling with attention issues or believe they may have ADHD.

The class aims to provide military members with information about ADHD prior an appointment for an evaluation and addresses specific concerns unique to the military.

“The class is so important because it helps educate the service members about if you were to receive a diagnosis, what are the benefits and potential impacts later on,” said Capt. Oliver Bauer, 509th MDG mental health element chief. “You can, and we talk about this in the class, serve that successful 20-year career in the military and have a diagnosis of ADHD.”

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that typically presents during adolescence but can carry forward into adulthood and affects things like concentration, organization, time management, and impulse control.

According to data collected by the National Institutes of Health, ADHD affects about 5.3 million, or about 8.7% of children in the United States. Up to 90% of children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms into adulthood.

Maj. Callie Cooper, 509th MDG Mental Health Flight commander, said that some service members believe that a diagnosis of ADHD will result in a medical evaluation board and administrative separation, but that’s not the case.

“There could be some roadblocks or obstacles as far as location,” she said, “But you are still deployable, and you can still be in the military. You can still do your job and that’s what matters and that’s how you serve that successful career.”

In addition to dispelling some myths about ADHD, the class is also designed to help service members pre-screen themselves before coming to the clinic for an evaluation.

This is critical because of recent trends in increased awareness and diagnoses of ADHD during the past three decades. According to the NIH, the prevalence of ADHD in children increased from 6.2% in 1997 to 10.2% in 2022.

“There’s a huge demand, an overwhelming demand, of folks that are asking for an ADHD evaluation,” said Cooper. “Upwards of a third of our new patient appointments would have been taken up just by doing those evaluations.”

Cooper said the Mental Health Flight saw a reduction in new patient evaluations due to class attendees learning about other things that may be causing attention problems ranging from PTSD to lack of sleep.

“I think it maximizes our resources,” she said. “It gets people into care more quickly and where they need to be rather than just sitting around waiting for an appointment. I think it also increases awareness of other resources.”

Bauer compiled statistics from the first year of the class being offered, and during that time, 68 people attended the class. Only 26 of those 68 were scheduled for an evaluation and only seven were diagnosed with ADHD.

Those other resources include the Behavioral Health Organization Program and True North providers embedded within units.

The impact of offering the class was such that Bauer presented his findings from the first year to an Association of Military Surgeons of the United States conference and received interest from other Air Force bases and other branches of the military in adopting a similar program at their mental health clinics.

Mental health clinicians at Fort Belvoir, Virginia were even interested in adapting the format of the class for memory care and service members with traumatic brain injuries.

This class has allowed the Mental Health Flight to take better care of its patients and has helped service members stay focused on their missions, better enabling Team Whiteman to execute global strike capabilities… anytime, anywhere.