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State Hosting ‘Military Immersion’ Training for Mental Health Professionals

State of Tennessee Press Release, Aug 26, 2010

Agencies Partner to Host Operation Immersion Aug. 30 – Sept. 1

NASHVILLE – Mental health professionals from 19 states and 5 tribal nations will participate in the third OPERATION IMMERSION August 30 – September 1, 2010, at the Tennessee National Guard Training Center in Smryna, Tenn. The unique military immersion training experience is hosted by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Development Disabilities (TDMHDD) along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Tennessee National Guard and the Tennessee Veterans Task Force.

The training is designed to immerse attendees in military culture and the deployment experience in an effort to help remove the barriers and apprehension soldiers often face when seeking help for mental health or substance abuse disorders. Participants stay in the barracks, go through modified early morning Physical Training chores and inspection, tour a C-130 and Black Hawk Helicopter, and eat Meals Ready to Eat, just like those who are deployed to combat.

Featured speakers will include Major General Terry M. Haston, Adjutant General of the Tennessee National Guard, TDMHDD Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts, and Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The event will also feature presentations by experts from SAMHSA and Tennessee on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, homelessness, and suicide prevention. Attendees also will hear personal stories of deployment from combat veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and from military spouses and family members.

“This training offers a unique opportunity for behavioral health care providers in Tennessee other states across the U.S. to experientially learn about life from the military perspective,” said Commissioner Betts. “It is our hope that Operation Immersion will help to foster a better understanding of these special issues and concerns that will in turn lead to better treatment and prevention of mental health and substance abuse disorders for those who serve our country through military service.”

Operation Immersion, which began in June of 2009, is a collaborative effort of TDMHDD, the Tennessee National Guard, and the Tennessee Veterans Task Force designed to reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse disorders in military populations. The two-day curriculum focuses on military culture and issues specific to service members and veterans who have served in combat for one or multiple deployments, and their families.

Attendees will hail from states receiving Access to Recovery dollars. Access to Recovery is a SAMHSA discretionary grant that has its origins in a Presidential initiative to provide client choice among alcohol and/or drug treatment and recovery support services to individuals in need. Through the use of a voucher system, consumers can choose from more than 80 statewide service providers including both secular and faith based organizations.

The goals of the grant include expanding access to treatment, increasing the diversity of network providers, and providing a more streamlined entry into treatment and/or recovery services. There are 21 states that receive Access to Recovery dollars.

For more information about Operation Immersion or to view an agenda of the event, please visit www.tn.gov/mental or contact the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities at 615-253-4812.

SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on Americas communities. For more information, please visit www.samhsa.gov.

Agencies Partner to Host Operation Immersion Aug. 30 – Sept. 1

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