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Children find security in the daily routine of family life, and when this is disrupted by the long absences caused by military deployment, it can be traumatic. The purpose of Tripler Army Medical Center's SBHT (School Behavioral Health Team) Community of Practice Model is to help young children and their families cope with this and other behavioral health issues. The Queen's Medical Center has partnered with Tripler and the Hawai'i Department of Education to expand behavior health services at Wahiawa Elementary School, which currently has 572 students. 

Wahiawa Elementary recently hosted a dedication ceremony of a new School-Based Behavioral Health building on its grounds; the program, which officially opened on November 1, 2011, has enrolled 27 students to date. Named "Ike Pilialoha," or "bonds of knowledge, friendship, and love," the partnership program offers a comprehensive array of interdisciplinary school-based programs and services to support the social and emotional well-being of students, families, and the community. 

U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye was a special guest speaker at the dedication ceremony. The senator related that when he enlisted 69 years ago at age 18, 96% of military personnel were unmarried. "Today, 70% are married with children," he said. "That's why I'm here. This is absolutely essential. We have to realize the pain theses families have."

The SBHT Community of Practice Model is not new to Hawai’i; it has been in use by Tripler for more than a decade. However, this is the first time in Army Medicine that a behavioral health partnership has gone outside the gate. The three-way partnership is the only one of its kind in the country. When the size of military personnel in the Wahiawa area increased, many of their children's education had to be accommodated in off-post schools like Wahiawa Elementary. 

These children lacked behavioral health services simply because they went to school off-post, and in attempting to expand services to these public elementary schools, Tripler didn't want to exclude children from civilian families."[QHS/QMC President] Art Ushijima, heard about the SBHT's program, stepped up, and offered to work with us," explained Dr. Stan Whitsett, SBHT Clinical Director. "Queen's agreed to provide a matching team of professionals to provide care to the non-military children in the off-post schools."

"Separation is hard," noted Vicky Olson, wife of General Eric. T. Olson, former commander of the 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Hawai'i. "What's changed is the number of deployments and rapidity of deployments. Accidents and deaths are always in the news, where children can't help hearing about it." Olson served on Tripler's advisory board and helped spearhead community efforts with the DOE and Queen's. Tripler's SBHT multidisciplinary team—made up of two child and adolescent psychiatrists, five social workers, and two psychologists--takes care of military families, while the Queen's Team takes care of civilian families. However, to all parents, services are seamless and free of charge.

The teams provide services that focus on preventative and early intervention behavioral health care, as well as staff wellness programs. The teams hope to expand their services to one other elementary school during the 2012-2013 school year.

Queen's purchased the portable building, which the DOE renovated. The newly dedicated building will give Queen's, DOE, and Tripler behavioral health staff a place to provide services. The partnership has so far raised $750,000. Donations to the program can be made via The Queen's Medical Center. Just mention "Ike Pilialoha" or "School-Based Behavioral Health program."


Photo captions:
1. U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye speaks at the 'Ike Pilialoha dedication ceremony
2. Leilehua High School JROTC Color Guard in front of the new 'Ike Pilialoha building

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