This blog is the most recent in a series helping members of the Coast Guard family understand how to use their TRICARE benefits. The blog series will continue every Monday, right here on Coast Guard All Hands.
Written by Cmdr. Paul Fawcett
Mental health issues are often difficult challenges for Coast Guard members and their families. There’s frequently a lack of knowledge about where and how to get help, concern about stigma, career implications and other social concerns. But help is available for members and families suffering from mental health problems. This article will provide you with some of the available resources.
If you or a family member are experiencing a mental health emergency which includes suicidal thoughts, or feeling that you may harm yourself or someone else, you should seek help immediately. For immediate help you can go to the nearest Emergency Room or call 911 to receive assistance. You can also call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8225. The military crisis line is also a good resource that has an online chat function. Other resources include military chaplains, civilian clergy, primary care managers and licensed counselors. In an emergency don’t delay care to get an appointment, get help immediately. TRICARE’s crisis hotline page contains additional resources.
Coast Guard active duty and reserve members and their dependents and civilian employees also have access to the CG SUPRT program to access mental health assistance. The CG SUPRT program offers a professionally staffed service available 24/7 to assist with mental health concerns. CG SUPRT can be accessed by calling 1-855-247-8778. CG SUPRT can assist members by arranging for short term counseling for mental health and life issues, among the range of services it offers.
What TRICARE Covers for Mental Health Care Services
For mental health counseling beyond that offered by CG support, Coast Guard members must receive a referral from their Primary Care Manager before receiving care from a civilian provider. Dependents and other TRICARE beneficiaries can receive up to 8 mental health counseling appointments per fiscal year without a referral. A referral from your doctor is required to receive more than 8 mental health appointments. Appointments must be with a networked mental health provider or out of pocket expenses could be incurred.
TRICARE also covers inpatient services and the benefit has recently been expanded. TRICARE now authorizes outpatient care and/or full or part time hospitalization for mental health care for the length of the required course of treatment as long as it is medically necessary. Medical determination for necessity and a referral for this type of care from a doctor are still required.
If prescription medications are required to manage your mental health condition it must be prescribed by an authorized provider. For maintenance medications that you take long term, you can receive your prescription through TRICARE mail order pharmacy. Otherwise you can receive your short term prescriptions from a TRICARE network pharmacy. Coast Guard active duty members who receive prescriptions for mental health conditions such as depression from DOD facilities or on the TRICARE network, must immediately report this to their Coast Guard doctor to ensure the medication is nor prohibited or that it impacts their ability to perform their duties.
Mental health care can be a challenging problem to navigate, but help is available. The first step is to ask for help. TRICARE has services and resources available to help, as does the Coast Guard, don’t suffer alone, let someone help.
As always, for TRICARE questions, please contact the USCG Health Benefits Assistance line at 1-800-9-HBA-HBA or CGHBA@uscg.mil . You can also leave us a comment below!