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Nellis Programs to Have Regional Reach

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., Nov. 5, 2009 – Two new programs here are focused on getting care and services to wounded or sick servicemembers and to military families during their loved ones’ deployments.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Karen Wilson, coordinator for the new Caring for People pilot program at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; and Jeffrey McClish, the base’s new Recovery Care Coordination Program coordinator, are ramping up programs to support families of deployed military members, and wounded, ill and sick servicemembers, respectively. DoD photo by Donna Miles

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Once word gets out about their programs, the coordinators hope their reach goes beyond Nellis and neighboring Creech Air Force Base, to include Reserve and National Guard members and their families throughout the region.

Nellis’ new recovery care coordinator, Jeffrey McClish, opened Air Combat Command’s first Recovery Care Coordination Program here in September. It’s one of 16 programs Air Force-wide that provide a clearinghouse of information and services for seriously wounded, injured or ill servicemembers.

McClish works closely with family and patient liaison officers, medical care managers and a host of support agencies to ensure recovering servicemembers get the support and benefits they deserve, he explained.

“You have a personal advocate,” he tells his clients. “I’m someone who you know is going to make regular communication, … someone outside the medical arena you can talk to who will help you work through the issues.”

Unlike federal recovery coordinators who work with the most severely wounded troops, recovery care coordinators like McClish provide non-medical support during shorter-term hospital stays or rehabilitation periods, typically up to six months.

As a retired first sergeant, McClish combines his understanding of Air Force systems and programs with compassion for those who serve to help people who might not know where to turn to deal with questions about issues ranging from pay and benefits to combat stress.

He tracks clients’ progress, while they’re in the hospital and after they’re released, to connect them with whatever help they need.

Among McClish’s initial clients have been wounded warriors, a non-commissioned officer severely injured in an off-base car accident and another NCO recovering from chemotherapy.

“When they have a long convalescence, sometimes they kind of drop off the ‘scope,” he said. “Now, you have somebody who is targeted on them, to make sure they don’t drop off the scope.”

Meanwhile, just across the hallway from McClish’s office, Karen Wilson has set up shop for the new Caring for People pilot program. Nellis is one of nine Air Force bases worldwide participating in the program, which provides a single resource about programs and services to support families of deployed military members.

Just a week into the job, she was already working closely with the Airman and Family Readiness Center and other base support organizations, with plans to extend her reach outside Nellis’ gates to better tap into community support.

“A lot of times, people fall between the cracks and don’t get the help they need,” she said, because they don’t know where to turn or what to ask for.

“I want to be that single point of contact – that belly button – the person they can go to to help them navigate all the different agencies on base,” she said. “If families have some type of problem, I want to be the network that gets them to the services they need.”

Wilson refers to herself and McClish as “Batman and Robin,” both out to cut through red tape and confusing organizational charts that stand between numerous valuable programs and the people they’re designed to serve.

Ultimately, they see their reach extended far beyond the active-duty Air Force community, to include support for all branches of the service, both the active and reserve components.

“We are hitting every meeting we can get to, to get word out about what we have to offer,” McClish said. “You want to let folks know you are here and what you have to offer so they understand that there is another helping agency out there.”

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