Specialized resources for our special needs

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victoria Hommel
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Air Force leaders recognizes that having a family member with special needs comes with additional challenges and access to resources in the face of obstacles is important for mission readiness and quality of life.

The Exceptional Family Member Program is an all-encompassing program that works with military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing educational and medical services for civilians, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, retirees, and contractors.

“The EFMP is an excellent resource for our military members to use, especially those with children who have special needs,” said 1st Lt. Michael Hardy, 509th Bomb Wing public affairs officer and EFMP member. “My son has autism, with EFMP it’s an added resource for me to get in contact with and get access to sources I need, such as speech and behavioral therapy.”

Hardy was automatically enrolled in the program, which helped ensure he received the necessary resources to support his family’s special needs.

“Enrollment in the EFMP is mandatory for all active duty members and requires the identification of all family members requiring long term general medical, special education, early intervention, or modified housing,” said Cynthia Erdeljac, Exceptional Family Member family support coordinator.

The EFMP is available through the Family Support Office at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, and has several programs to enhance the quality of life of special needs family members.

According to Erdeljac, the program can be broken down into three sections: medical, family support and assignments. All three EFMP functions work towards providing comprehensive and coordinated support to families.

Hardy was most affected by the medical function offered by EFMP.

“The EFMP has actually been helping us get services mainly with behavioral and speech therapy for my son,” said Hardy. “They have assisted us on the medical side and will always reach out in case we need them.”

The family support program also works with outside community sources to connect families with the resources they need.

“They have always been in constant contact with me,” said Hardy. “They send me emails about informational meetings, are always reaching out to see if we need anything and to make sure we’re accommodated.”

The family support program focuses on connecting service members to local community resources to ensure EFMP families are taken care of.

“The family support coordinator works with a number of on and off base agencies, partnering with the special needs coordinator to offer community resources and develop educational workshops and outreach opportunities for families,” said Erdeljac. “The EFMP also works closely with local state and government agencies to provide the best possible resource and referral opportunities for our military families.”

Exceptional Family Member Program is also involved in outbound assignments by ensuring gaining units have all the available resources to provide for the special needs of the family member.

“The special needs coordinator is the point of contact for initiating enrollment into the EFMP and providing the completed paperwork for the gaining location,” said Phyllis Turner, Exceptional Family Member Medical Program special needs coordinator. “The medical coordinator engages with members by providing all EFMP paperwork once the family members have been notified of permanent change of station orders and has been identified as being enrolled.”

Once approved, special needs coordinators are able to assist in linking families with the medical care they need or request a care manager upon arrival to their new duty station, said Turner.

“We notified the special needs coordinator of our arrival at Whiteman and gave them a general idea of our situation,” said Hardy. “They sent us resources immediately. One of the resources was for updating referrals, we called them that morning and we had an appointment that afternoon with the doctor.”

The EFMP is organized for the convenience of their members. Military members are encouraged to use the resource if it is available to them.

“If you are unsure about criteria, always call so we can help you even if you’re not permanently changing stations,” said Turner. “We are here to help at any time.”

The EFMP is an established program that is available for the Air Force families stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base.

For any questions regarding the EFMP or regarding eligibility for the program, contact the EFMP medical office at 660-687-6032.