The Department of Defense announced today the formation of a congressionally-directed task force to examine matters related to mental health and the Armed Forces.
“This is an extremely important effort involving a collaboration of DoD, federal and private sector experts in mental health,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.
The Mental Health Task Force comprised of seven DoD members and seven non-DoD members, will submit a report to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in May 2007. It will include assessments and recommendations for improving the efficacy of mental health services provided to service members by DoD and will begin meeting in July 2006.
“High on the list will be steps for improving the awareness of the potential mental health conditions among service personnel and ways to improve the access and efficacy of our existing programs,” Winkenwerder said.
Congress directed the establishment of the task force as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006. Army Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, surgeon general, and a non-DoD representative, to be elected by the task force membership, will co-chair the task force.
“Because of the very challenging timeline established for the task force to do its work, the Armed Forces Epidemiology Board (AFEB) will support and serve as its parent organization,” Winkenwerder said.
The AFEB is an ongoing independent scientific advisory committee to the secretary of defense through the assistant secretary for health affairs and the military surgeons general for matters concerning operational programs, policy development, and research needs for the prevention of disease and promotion of health.
More information regarding the DoD Mental Health Task Force can be found at http://www.ha.osd.mil/afeb/mhtf/members.cfm.