By Phil Berube, Maxwell Public Affairs
/ Published November 20, 2017
Exceptional Family Member Program
Maxwell leaders are taking steps to make sure that military family members with special needs are getting the best comprehensive support they need and deserve.
Commanders have a mechanism in place that will integrate the different aspects of the Exceptional Family Member Program at Maxwell. They established “EFMP Champion,” where experts from each EFMP functional area provide status updates and metrics, discuss challenges and opportunities and identify areas where additional resources are needed.
“Through EFMP Champion, we will gain a holistic view of how our special needs community is being supported and where we need to focus our efforts. Most importantly, we’ll include multiple venues for families to participate directly in this construct and are looking forward to receiving their feedback,” said Col. Melissa Stone, 42nd Air Base Wing vice commander and champion of the new initiative.
The program is planning a comprehensive town hall and information fair in early 2018.
EFMP processes are divided into three specialized functional areas: medical, family support and assignments. While the three areas fall under the big Air Force EFMP umbrella, leaders recognized the need to bring organizational structure to the program at the base level.
EFMP enrollment is mandatory for active duty military members. Enrollment identifies a family member who has a diagnosed physical, intellectual or emotional-psychological condition that requires ongoing specialized medical or educational services.
The EFMP-Medical component is provided by the Air Force Medical Service. Base medical treatment facilities document and evaluate the medical and educational needs of the family member to advise the Air Force Personnel Center and families on the appropriateness of family relocation.
“This cross-functional working group is sharing information and resources to better serve our EFMP families through enhanced education about the program, as well as base and community resources available to family members,” said Maj. Ross Graham, chief of medical staff, 42nd Medical Group.
Finding and advising on community support groups, special needs education services and recreational opportunities is the role of EFMP-Family Support through the Airmen and Family Readiness Center. EFMP-FS also assists parents with finding and securing child care for the family member and respite care for themselves. Maxwell now has a fulltime EFMP-Family Support Coordinator, Lela Brown, to lead family support efforts.
The EFMP-Assignments office assists families relocating with a special needs family member and ensures their gaining base can support their needs.
Though the functional areas do currently share information amongst themselves, the EFMP Champion initiative will bring all parties to the table together to see how they can raise the care and support they deliver to a new level, said Stone.
Just as the initiative will integrate EFMP care within the gates, EFMP Champion will also seek to develop community partnerships for better collaboration with off-base agencies.
The first of these partnerships is with the Interaction Advisory Group and its Project Companion initiative.
Through Project Companion, the IAG provides customized awareness training for first responders, public service officials, educators and private sector workers on how to interact with people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Project Companion is funded by the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities.
Its focus will also be on community engagement.
“IAG will participate in town halls or workshops with the Maxwell EFMP Champion initiative on topics important to military families,” said Dustin Chandler, president and co-founder of IAG. “We will be training families on how to interact with first responders and what critical information first responders need to know about their loved one to keep them safe and treated fairly.”
In her role as the EFMP champion, Stone will work with the EFMP functional groups to identify best practices to share Air Force-wide, identify challenges and opportunities, solicit feedback from military families and provide oversight to elevate issues, as needed.
“As a mother to an awesome special needs kiddo myself, I have some understanding of the challenges our EFMP families face on a daily basis,” said Stone. “We owe it to these families to understand their situations and learn how we can best offer support. Caring for families with special needs is not something unique to the military community, and we are hopeful that initiatives like Project Companion will also resonate to a broader audience. I’m excited to be a part of Maxwell’s efforts and look forward to our progress.”