KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --
The Pacific Air Forces launched an innovative program, providing specialized mental health services for Air Force dependents across the bases of Kadena, Osan, Yokota, Misawa and Anderson, underscoring the importance of putting people first.
The PACAF Pediatric Psychological Developmental Team, established at Kadena in 2019, is a force comprised of three medical professionals – a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, a child psychologist and a child psychiatrist. This team has one goal: ensuring children and their families remain healthy, so Airmen can stay mission-ready.
“If you’ve got a kid who’s suffering at home, you’re not 100 percent at work. If we can mitigate these problems, help kids thrive and give parents strategies to manage their kids, then they can refocus themselves back on the reason that they were assigned here,” said Lt. Col. Eric Oglesbee, the P3DT child psychologist with the 18th Healthcare Operations Squadron. “We support the mission; we provide the necessary medical care for the well-being and happiness of children and their families.”
Using a combination of telehealth and in-person appointments, P3DT is equipped to help children with physical, emotional, developmental, or educational needs that result in mild to moderate symptoms. They offer focused child assessment and treatment, with support ranging from medication management to Psychotherapy.
Overseas, families often have limited options when it comes to pediatric services, making the specialty care P3DT delivers to overseas service members crucial in maintaining a fit and ready force.
“In an overseas location, pediatric mental health and developmental care is mission essential,” Oglesbee said. “In the U.S., the family can just go off-base and get their care. Off-base care doesn't exist in the same way here.”
Before family members with specific medical requirements can accompany a service member to an assignment, a medical team must review their needs to determine if the gaining base has adequate support and resources.
“The Air Force needs specific people, at specific places, to do specific jobs. We help the people get to where they need to be, or stay where they need to be, by providing for the needs of their dependents,” said Lt. Col. Justin Rowberry, chief of P3DT with the 18th HCOS and a developmental and behavioral pediatrician.
Of the inquiries sent to them for review, P3DT has been able to medically clear 55 percent of families who would’ve previously been denied overseas orders due to the lack of necessary medical facilities.
While more families are able to come overseas, families currently stationed abroad also have a need for these resources as mental health issues may arise for a child after arriving to a new base. In some cases, P3DT can provide the necessary care that maintains a family’s eligibility to remain overseas.
“With COVID-19 and increasing (mental health) symptoms worldwide for all age ranges, we’ve been able to stabilize and help kids who didn’t come here with (mental health) symptoms, but developed them later,” Rowberry said.
Whether a dependent’s symptoms are new or pre-existing, the first step for parents to access P3DT’s pediatric services is seeing their primary care provider or pediatrician for a referral.
Taking the first step might be difficult for some, but the professionals of P3DT make it their mission to provide a high standard of care. The hope is to provide care to patients who’ve traditionally not been helped in the past, either because they never sought treatment or because they received insufficient treatment, Rowberry explained.
“I've got seven kids of my own and my heart just goes out to those kids who need a little bit more help to be successful,” he said. “We’re very successful in helping kids do more than they ordinarily would be able to … We can make a difference.”