19th FSS offers new EFMP automated system and networking groups

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Valerie Halbert
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The Exceptional Family Member Program is designed to support military family members who have a diagnosed physical, intellectual, or emotional-psychological condition requiring ongoing specialized medical or educational services.

This support is provided through a variety of personnel, medical and family support functions. All three functions work with other agencies to enhance the quality of life for families as they relocate around the world with their sponsors.

Beginning last year, the personnel function added a new process which allows service members who are selected for a permanent change of station to access automated family member travel screenings. While travel screenings are required for all service members with dependents, this automated system is especially beneficial for EFMP families.

These new capabilities will eliminate many, if not all, medical appointments, enable Common Access Card-free system access, and allow family members to complete paperwork electronically, which means better routing, accountability, and case tracking.

One of the most important new features allows EFMP families to add additional information about specialty care that is needed, which is then used to decide if the current assignment works best for the family’s medical or educational needs or if other options should be discussed.

While the PCS process and settling into a new location can be a stressful time for service members and their dependents, the EFMP family support function is also available to offer assistance.

Locally, the Airman and Family Readiness Center and EFMP family support provide a variety of relocation services and recreational activities to help individuals with special needs to gain new skills, play sports or get involved in hobbies.

“We’ve offered therapeutic horseback riding, special needs summer camps, and special needs sports,” said Kyle Polencheck, 19th Force Support Squadron EFMP family support coordinator. “I also do a monthly networking group which offers workshops and educational opportunities. When we’re looking at that family support piece, we’re looking at it as a whole to do everything we can to support the family.”

During the month of February, the networking group focused on financial resources available to EFMP families and included topics about college savings for EFMP children and investment resources.

Polencheck said he plans to continue to bring in different agencies from the base and local community during these networking groups for families to learn more about what is available to them.

“For somebody who is brand new to the EFMP program and doesn’t know what it’s all about, this is where they can meet others who have been a part of the program for 10 to 20 years,” Polencheck said. “It brings families and parents together to help out other families.”

Along with formal and informal discussions, families can share information, fears, hopes and plans with other families while learning from one another.

“I think the population can get a bit lost sometimes trying to understand who is a part of the EFMP,” said Stephanie Koonst, 19th FSS community readiness consultant. “It isn’t always necessarily children, we have spouses too. For instance, someone who is an insulin dependent diabetic will also be enrolled in the program.”

The EFMP is a wide umbrella with a vast range of members and many people can benefit from these networking groups, Koonst continued.

“Building a community and relationships for support is important,” said Polencheck. “Nobody knows what a special needs family goes through better than another special needs family. Making those connections throughout the military community allows you to connect with people who are going through the same things and offer or receive support.”

The EFMP networking group meets every third Tuesday of the month at 10 a.m. Contact the A&FRC at (501) 987-2667 for further information or to sign up.