MCAS Cherry Point News


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(Left to Right) Navy Capt. Edgardo Perez-Lugo, commanding officer of Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point, Col. Philip J. Zimmerman, commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and Lt. Cmdr. Erin M. Simmons, department head of the mental health clinic at the Naval clinic, conduct a ribbon cutting ceremony Feb. 9 for the clinic’s revamped, relocated mental health clinic. The facility used to be on the first floor of the clinic but moved to the third because of a lack of space. The upstairs location provides a much more suitable environment, said Simmons.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Stephen T. Stewart

Cherry Point mental health clinic revamps, relocates

17 Feb 2012 | Lance Cpl. Stephen T. Stewart

Marines and Sailors participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony at Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point Feb. 9, for the grand opening of the air station’s revamped and relocated mental health clinic.

The facility used to be on the first floor of the clinic but moved to the third because of a lack of space. The upstairs location provides a much more suitable environment, said Lt. Cmdr. Erin M. Simmons, department head for the mental health clinic.

“We wanted to be able to offer more group services, more types of clinical services, and we didn’t have the space down stairs,” said Simmons. “In addition to that, down stairs had no windows and was very closed in.”

The number of patients the clinic receives has gone up in the past six months, forcing it to send the majority of its active duty patients off-base to get the help they need, but now there is room for that to be avoided, said Simmons.

“We return most of our patients to full duty, and we medical board or separate relatively few of them,” said Simmons. “The thing we consider is that people aren’t just good-to-go or broken. There are a lot of steps in between and a lot of those steps we can fix.”

Navy Capt. Edgardo Perez-Lugo, Commanding Officer of the Naval Health Clinic, said the mental health clinic will now be able to recapture 70% of the active duty patients being sent out as network referrals.

Most service members with mental health issues of late have typically been discharged because the help they need hasn’t necessarily been available, but that is changing.

“I feel it is very important to take care of the people who serve and get them back on the right track,” said Seaman Joseph D. Norton, a psychological technician with the mental health clinic. “Having a problem doesn’t make them weak. It’s very important to get them help and not discharge them but rather let them stay in.”

It can be difficult for person to realize the need for and seek mental health, when in reality it can be hard to fight through problems without help, said Norton.

“It’s absolutely not true that people are weak when they come here,” said Simmons. “It is very important that if you need help that you get that help.”

The Marine Corps shows its support for the mental health issues taking place in today’s military with a primary focus on the matter of post traumatic stress syndrome.

“The Department of Defense, all the medical departments, the service chiefs and myself have dedicated a significant amount of time trying to find as many therapies, as many ways to help our young men and women work their way through post-traumatic stress,” said Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos during the George P. Schultz Lecture Feb. 8 in San Francisco, Calif.

The Marine Corps has instituted a program where if a Marine has a concussion while on deployment and is brought inside the wire, they can’t go back out until they’ve had a complete examination, Amos stated.

“If they get knocked out twice, they’re done. We don’t send them home, by the way, because there’s not a Marine out there that wants to come home. Marines will lie. You ask them, how are you feeling? They’ll say, ‘I’m good to go,’” Amos said. “Knowing that they don’t want to go home, if they have two concussions that knock them out or they have three concussive events then it is called, three strikes, you’re in.

“You stay with your Marines; you stay at the combat outpost; you stay at the forward operating base, but you no longer go out on patrol. But you have the benefit of being with your brothers and sisters,” Amos explained.

“We’re dedicated, every service chief, every ounce of energy we have, to try to find solutions to post-traumatic stress,” said Amos.

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point