Hundreds of families enrolled in Joint Base Lewis-McChords Exceptional Family Member Program turned out Aug. 24 to gather information from local community resources, collect a few back-to-school supplies, eat free hot dogs, socialize, and have fun lots of it.
Sixteen agencies from JBLM and the surrounding area came together at Lewis North Chapel to offer details about program services for military families with a special needs family member as part of an EFMP carnival. More than 3,000 families are in enrolled in JBLMs EFMP.
Anthony Buggage, the McChord Field EFMP coordinator, said the event gives the EFMP families the chance to unite with other families who face the same challenges.
We have amazing support groups, but we do this in part so that parents and children have the opportunity to develop a bond with each other, Buggage said.
To support military familes with special needs, the Army created EFMP in the early 1980s. According to the U.S. Army Medical Department, approximately 16 percent of Army Families have members with special needs, including spouses, children or dependent parents who require special medical or educational services. While statistics were not available for the Air Force, across all Department of Defense branches, about 100,000 military families have members with special needs.
This includes Pam Mattsons Air Force family and her 4-year-old son, James, who has a chromosome deletion, making him deaf and unable to walk or speak. Even though the event has become an annual affair for her family, she is thankful for the information because it reminds her of what resources are available and introduces her to new ones.
Weve come for the last two years, but there is always something I forget, said Mattson, who also has a 5-year-old daughter. As both of my children get older, there is always something that comes up that we need help with.
Enrolled in EFMP since her son was 2 months old, Mattson is extremely thankful for the help and resources the program provides to her family. All of her sons medical equipment is provided through a branch of TRICARE called the Extended Care Health Option, which provides financial assistance for services and supplies needed to care for her son.
The community focus of EFMP is what impresses Mattson the most. As a military family member, the sense of community is already there, but she likes being introduced to other EFMP families as well.
It helps when you get connected to other people who are going through what youre going through, Mattson said.
For more information or to enroll, contact the Madigan Healthcare System EFMP office at 968-1370.