For Behavioral Health Providers: A Military Immersion Training
Substance abuse professionals from 19 states and 5 tribal organizations arrived at the National Guard Training Center in Smyrna, TN, to participate in and learn about a first-of-its-kind military immersion training with the goal of replicating similar programs nationwide.
SAMHSA, along with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (TDMHDD), the Tennessee National Guard, and the Tennessee Veterans Task Force hosted this training, called Operation Immersion, in early September 2010.
Operation Immersion, which launched in June of 2009, is an effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance use disorders in military populations.
The training is designed to immerse attendees in military culture and the deployment experience. “The ultimate goal of this experience is to help remove stigma and other barriers,” said SAMHSA’s H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Director of the Agency’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “Stigma is a serious problem for soldiers who are thinking about seeking help for mental health or substance use disorders.”
The 2-day curriculum focused on military culture and issues unique to service members and veterans who have served in combat and experienced one or multiple deployments.
Dr. H. Westley Clark, SAMHSA’s Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (third from left); Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (fourth from right); and some members of the Tennessee National Guard.
During Operation Immersion, attendees stayed in barracks, went through a modified early morning Physical Training (PT), completed chores and inspection, toured a C-130 cargo plane and Black Hawk helicopter, and ate a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE).
Opening remarks for the event included Major General Terry M. Haston, TDMHDD Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts, and Dr. Clark.
Other featured presentations included experts from SAMHSA and Tennessee on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), homelessness, and suicide prevention. Attendees also heard personal stories of deployment from combat veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and from military spouses
and family members.
SAMHSA’s role in this effort is part of the Agency’s Strategic Initiative on promoting the behavioral health interests of those in the military, veterans, and their families.
National Guard, Reserve, veterans, and active duty service members as well as their families, who do not seek care from the Departments of Defense (DoD) or Veterans Affairs (VA), do seek care in communities across the Nation. These groups are the focus of SAMHSA’s Strategic Initiative on Military Families. For more information about SAMHSA’s Strategic Initiatives, please visit the Agency’s recently redesigned website.