The 909 ARS Key Spouse Program

Stationed at Kadena Air Base, Heather Gardner had to take a break from her profession in human resources and started cutting hair to stay busy and connected. As she chatted with fellow spouses, she saw a disturbing trend. Spouses were not getting access to the healthcare that they needed, especially mental health. She brought the issue to her squadron Key Spouse Program and they advocated to leadership. Taking the issue seriously, leadership partnered with mental health and elected to host a spouse health and wellness forum. They examined the issues from the top to the bottom and found out that the average wait for mental health support for a spouse was 9-12 months. They thought, "there has to be a better way.”

After countless months of research and spouse forums, the team developed an answer. They proposed a simple solution, which would ultimately mean a Tricare Overseas Policy change through the support of DHA. Specifically, they honed in on the fact that U.S. instillations overseas are and should be considered U.S. jurisdiction, which means CONUS Tricare providers could be referred to and leveraged via telehealth services. This change in policy would help not only dependents stationed at Okinawa, but all overseas locations.

Of course, a project of this magnitude takes the support of many! The 909 ARS KSP is fully supported and championed by commander, Lt Col Ryan Wilson. Lt Col Wilson ensured that the team received backing from relevant leadership, especially the group commander’s spouse, Ms. Amanda Ferrell. The initiative was supported by wing leadership, as well as the USFJ/CC and the PACAF/CC, where it was briefed at the most recent PACAF/CC leadership conference. The initiative has additionally been championed by Mrs. Amy Rule, Spouse to the U.S. Ambassador of Japan. The momentum created by the many people who have spoken into this initiative has culminated at the Defense Health Agency where they are working to put the plan into action. 

Thanks to the 909 ARS KSP and all of their champions for innovating in support of our families. 

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