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ODU's Remley serves on Institute of Medicine committee on TRICARE

Ted Remley, the Batten Endowed Chair in Counseling at Old Dominion University, served as a member of the National Academies of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee on TRICARE that last month released a report recommending changes in the provision of mental health care services to members of the military and their families. TRICARE is the Department of Defense's health care benefits program.

According to the report, military service can have long-term effects on both service members and their families, which sometimes can result in physical and mental trauma. "War fighters are vulnerable to a range of complex and sometimes difficult-to-diagnose conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury that may not be recognized until months or years after the precipitating event," the report states.

Remley, who chairs the Department of Counseling and Human Services at ODU, was selected for the IOM committee due to his reputation as a scholar and his ability to understand policy implications of graduate education in mental health counseling. He holds a Ph.D. in counselor education from the University of Florida and a law degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Licensed as a professional counselor in three states, Remley has served as a school counselor, college counselor and U.S. Army officer. He is a former executive director of the American Counseling Association.

In fiscal year 2008, Congress requested that the Institute of Medicine take a look at the credentials, preparation and training of licensed mental health counselors. As noted in the report released last month, "Under current TRICARE rules, mental health counselors are required to practice under a physician's supervision, and their patients must be referred to them by a physician in order for their services to be eligible for reimbursement. This requirement distinguishes them from some other mental health professionals, who practice without such restrictions."

The IOM committee, Remley said, felt that these rules were too restrictive, and it has recommended that counselors be permitted to practice independently under the TRICARE program "when their education, training, and clinical experience have prepared them to meet the needs of the TRICARE beneficiary population," according to the report. The committee further recommended that TRICARE "implement a comprehensive quality management system for all of its mental health professionals," and it developed specific criteria for establishing such a system.

The report concludes: "Our nation's service members and their families have significant mental health services needs. In order to ensure that they receive the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, TRICARE should assure that all mental health providers, including counselors, are provided with a practice environment that facilitates high quality care through appropriate scopes of practice, education on the particular problems and needs of the patient population, promotion of evidence-based practices, monitoring of outcomes, and application of quality improvement strategies.

"As part of that quality management system, counselors should be allowed to practice independently when their education, training, and clinical experience have prepared them to meet the needs of the TRICARE beneficiary population."

Remley, who said that he was pleased to serve as a member of the IOM committee, added that the panel's recommendations are currently under review by TRICARE.

This article was posted on: March 9, 2010

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