From the Homefront: Getting mental health assistance

Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 15 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network.


As military families, we take pride in our resilience and our strength in overcoming the challenges. But refusing help is not a sign of strength. When it comes to emotional pain and mental health care, take advantage of all of the resources available. Don’t let the mask of strength block access to help when you or your family needs it.

While September is Suicide Prevention Month, reminders about how families can access mental health assistance are important all year around. And starting next month, Tricare will begin easing some of its restrictions on getting mental health and drug treatment coverage.

Here are some sobering statistics about our kids: 20% of teens, that’s one in five, are living with a mental health condition. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people aged 15 to 24. Nine out of 10 of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness. Children of deployed military family members have more emotional difficulties when compared to national averages.

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.

Military spouses are struggling, too. Military spouses reported experiencing significant stress, especially due to deployments, financial, and employment-related issues. There are higher rates of depression among spouses of deployed active duty members.

So what can we do? Be there. Be aware of signs of crisis. And seek help. There are a lot of options out there. No one needs to go this alone.

Tricare recently amended its rules about mental health and drug treatment coverage, and those changes will take effect next month. Its intent in updating the rules of coverage was to remove the stigma from mental health treatment and to streamline the process by which beneficiaries get help. Some of the changes:

  • The limits on stays at inpatient mental health facilities, which were 30 days for adults and 45 days for children, will be lifted.
  • The limits on the number of family therapy visits, which had been 15, will be changed to allow for treatment to last as long as is medically or psychologically necessary.
  • Co-pays for mental health coverage will be reduced to make them more in range with those for standard medical benefits.
  • The rules for becoming authorized Tricare mental health providers will be more aligned with industry standards, meaning that more mental health providers will qualify to become authorized Tricare providers. This will be especially beneficial in certain geographic areas with limited mental health care coverage.
  • Transgender treatment, for those experiencing gender dysphoria, will now be covered, but it will not include gender reassignment surgery.
  • Thee are no age limitations for children to receive mental health care.


These changes should shift the focus from a treatment plan that focuses on number of limits to care to a continuum of care that focuses on the needs of the patient, according to the final rule explanation in the Federal Register.


What Tricare covers:

Tricare covers inpatient and outpatient services, individual, group, and family psychotherapy, long-term psychoanalysis, psychological testing and assessment, medication management, and telemental health services, which are secure audio-video conferencing. Amore detailed Mental Health Care Services Fact Sheet is downloadable.

In a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. No prior authorization is necessary. A mental health emergency is when someone is at serious risk of harm, either to oneself or to others, as a result of a mental health issue, or when someone needs acute care or continuous observation.

If someone is admitted to the hospital due to a mental health emergency, contact the regional Tricare office within a day or so to get an authorization for continued stay treatment.

For nonemergency care, referrals are necessary in certain circumstances. If you are an active duty service member, you need a referral for all mental health care. If you are a family member on Prime or Standard, you do not need a referral for the first eight outpatient visits, but you need one after your eighth and before the ninth visit.

There are so many ways to get help – just check out the list below. It is easier than ever before to find mental health support for our families.

What resources would you recommend? Share your links in the comments below.


Emergency suicide crisis services may also be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the CG SUPRT Program toll free number 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778).

Emergency suicide crisis services may also be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the CG SUPRT Program toll free number 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778).


The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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