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Forum allows families to speak out on health issues

By Cpl. Christopher Zahn | | November 26, 2008

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Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort hosted Lt. Gen. Ronald Coleman, the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, the commanding general for II Marine Expeditionary Force, Maj. Gen. Carl Jensen, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East,  Army Maj. Gen. Elder Granger, deputy director and program executive officer of TRICARE Management and a delegation of healthcare and quality-of-life professionals for a town hall meeting Nov. 20. 
The town hall was designed to give Marines, sailors and their families a chance to discuss any concerns related to the military healthcare system with military leaders and medical professionals.
At the beginning of the meeting, Coleman made very clear to the crowd what their purpose was.
“This is your forum,” he said. “Tell us what we can do to make life better for you and your families.”
One-by-one, service members and their families stood and addressed their grievances with the health care system or shared suggestions with the panel. They ranged from a variety of issues such as the need for more pediatricians to a better system for making appointments.
“I have an autistic child and I feel like the military healthcare system is failing,” said Ashley Morrison, the wife of a sailor with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31. “I feel like parents of autistic and special needs children are an underrepresented group in the military.
“I hope to get some help and create awareness of the needs of parents with special needs children,” Morrison continued. “There are not enough developmental pediatricians in the area and it is difficult to get in with ones out of the area.”
The meeting gave Morrison the help she was looking for. It was help that she hoped goes beyond her as well.
“I’ve gotten three phone calls already to set up appointments, so I think it was very productive,” she said. “I still think that there’s a long way to go but the first steps are encouraging. Hopefully they’ll realize there is a large group of people that still need help.”
The meeting also gave people the chance to get immediate answers to their questions and the opportunity to speak to the people who make the policies.
“I think that it went great; they were very open to ideas,” said DaNeil Cox, the family readiness officer for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312.  “A lot of people got answers on the spot to their questions or they were put in contact with the people who had the answers.
“Obviously some of the issues are bigger than what can be solved in a single day, but overall it went very well,” Cox continued.
For the issues that can’t be solved in a day, or for those that affect many more people that spoke out at the meeting, help is on the way. The leadership of the Tri-Command is aware of the need for more forums like this where people can seek answers to their questions and they pledge to do more in the future.
“The town hall meeting was a great success,” said Col. John Snider, the commanding officer of the Air Station. “Senior leadership in the Marine Corps, Navy and TRICARE heard the issues firsthand from family members. These issues are real and need to be addressed now. I believe the town hall meeting was a starting point to improving healthcare in the Tri-Command area. Local commanders are committed to increasing venues, such as quarterly quality of life boards, to hear and address these issues with the Naval Hospital and TRICARE. I believe this is a starting point to improving needed health care for our families, Marines, sailors and civilian Marines.”
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