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Integrated delivery of services streamlines assistance to MacDill members and families

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

Integration as a path to greater efficiency and effectiveness has been an Air Force theme in recent years and while it is the high profile arena of military operations, machines and warfighters that are at the forefront of streamlining efforts, the support elements that make life better for servicemembers are equally integrated and like their combat counterparts, the aim is increasing effectiveness.

The Integrated Delivery System is the coming together of a wide range of services and support agencies. Mandated by the Air Force, MacDill's IDS has been around since 1999 and the IDS committee meets once a month.

Representatives of a variety of groups, from the wing chaplain, to Family Support Center, the Health and Wellness Center, first sergeants and even the Commissary discuss the issues facing the service, the base and servicemembers.

Because these support groups have come together in recent years and work more closely, the integration concept has been paying off with better understanding between them and of each others' role on base. The expected benefit has been realized, said Joan Craft, HAWC director and a co-chair on the IDS Committee.

"One of the biggest benefits has been reduced redundancy and improved programs," said Craft. "We all exchange and coordinate efforts now and that means much less duplication; we are the bigger picture and we work collaboratively and work to get issues resolved."

Katy Thornton, Family Support Center director and a IDS co-chair, said each agency involved pretty much serves military members and families the way they always did but the difference is each has at their fingertips all the services available and such a thorough understanding of what the base has to offer, there isn't anything the agencies of the IDS are not able to deal with either directly or through referrals.

From an administrative standpoint, IDS member agencies are communicating at a much higher level and problems that might not have been apparent in the past due to them being confined to one agency, are now recognized quickly and worked out using a team approach. The IDS also means a more direct path to the command level has opened up, said Thornton. "We have a way to bring issues to command whereas in the past it was harder for just one agency," she said. "It couldn't really be done before but now we go before the Command Action Information Board."

With the weight of all the IDS agencies bringing issues to the command level, not only are they taken seriously, it streamlines the process by allowing command to deal with one umbrella organization rather than numerous smaller ones. Another plus is in the area of funding. Since the IDS can pool its resources and identify mutual needs, the process of applying for grants becomes easier, as Air Mobility Command has to go no further than the IDS. Grants being sought by the IDS now include one to establish marriage counseling on base as well as to fund an obesity program.

Suicide prevention, the main thrust when the IDS was formed, is an ongoing effort and a funding priority in the group, said Craft.

But while the administrative advantages of the IDS are readily apparent to those who run the agencies, the IDS concept may not be as clear to servicemebers or their dependents. While it is advised that those in need of assistance target the agency that seems best suited for deal with their questions or problems (the chapel, for example for spiritual matters) they should know that nearly any service they may utilize is able to listen and advise them on virtually any issue they may face, thanks to the synergy of the IDS program. Be they money and finance issues, physical or mental health, spiritual or family and marriage problems, any one of the IDS agencies now are equipped to advise and refer.

But while the IDS struggles to let people know that most base services are tied together in a new and efficient way, some are scarcely aware that help is available at all. All branches of the military, mission partners like Central Command and Special Operations Command and retired military have full access to the power of IDS, said Craft. Even Coalition Village members can utilize some of the services, she said.

"Getting the word out of what all is available has always been a problem," said Craft.

Often times the problem is while servicemembers may know about available services and programs, they don't pass the information on to spouses. Out of touch and living off base, Craft said many families in need go without help because they don't realize the help is there.

While the results of the survey still are being tabulated, issues like lack of awareness may be identified in the recently completed Community Needs Assessment survey. The survey and the Community Needs Assessment team scheduled to arrive at MacDill in March to analyze the survey and make recommendations, is a driving force behind a "refocused" IDS, said Thornton.

Craft stressed that while a part of the IDS mission is to deal with problems and come up with solutions, "It's not just about problems; it's about improving the quality of life on base." That, she says, is essential to the broader mission of MacDill and the Air Force, as lives in disarray and servicemembers with unresolved family issues hinders readiness.

"A lot of people look at the jobs we (the various service and help agencies) do and say we're just foo-foo," said Craft. "They think we are the cherry on top of the sundae but we are the base; we're the quality of life watch dogs."

 

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