The Coast News Group
News Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe

DSTRESS Line program to go global in early 2012

The DSTRESS Line pilot program, a program that provides anonymous counseling services to Marines from Marines, received the OK from the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., to expand the line Corps-wide, reaching a global presence by early 2012.
The pilot program, which began in April 2010, was developed in part by TriWest Healthcare Alliance based in Arizona, in conjunction with the Marine Corps.
Col. Grant Olbrich is a part of the behavior health branch that helped to develop the contact center for Marines after seeing there was a gap in care for Marines and their families.
“We find that we do a really good job of taking care of ourselves; taking care of our own Marines and families…that’s what we wanted to do,” Olbrich said. He said the gap in care was created out of the fact that Marines weren’t using other aid programs because they weren’t specifically geared to Marines.
Too many times, when Marines would attempt to use existing services, they found they were understood as a service member, but not as a Marine, Olbrich explained.
“But a Marine doesn’t like to be called a service member,” Olbrich added. “And doesn’t like to be called soldier, they like to be recognized as a Marine.”
The DSTRESS Line allows Marines to speak, or chat online with one of their own. Prior to upcoming expansion, the program was available only to Marines in the TriWest coverage areas, including California.
“DSTRESS offers a 24/7/365 outlet for Marines and their families to talk about everything from common, everyday stressors of life to post-traumatic stress issues, before they become a crisis,” said David J. McIntyre, Jr., president and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance.
“There’s obviously a social stigma for a lot of us…to talk about behavioral health, to ask for help and we are more comfortable doing that sometimes with a fellow Marine,” Olbrich said. “And we’re very comfortable doing it, if we can do it anonymously.
“It’s no secret we feel we’re the best. We are very proud of our heritage, very proud of our culture and ethos. And when you have that sense of pride, a lot of us…are not going to be real quick to go to somebody who’s outside of that family and admit what many perceive to be a weakness.”
A lot of the calls that the centers have been receiving fall under the general category of stress, with anger management, with substance abuse, Olbrich explained. “It goes from the spectrum of mild agitation to suicide,” he added.
The contact center is staffed by licensed behavioral health counselors, and retired Marines; there are also two Navy Corpsmen on staff.
In the future, the DSTRESS Line will also be staffed by Marine spouses.
“When we say, ‘Call in today to speak with one of your own,’ we mean it. We want that one of your own to be one of your own fellow spouses, fellow Marines,” Olbrich said.
TriWest Healthcare Alliance is operating the pilot program at their cost. TriWest brought in the veterans to staff the center and have provided the training to their standard. Each of the veterans received training in counseling skills, listening skills, and crisis management and crisis referrals.
The Marines have in turn, provided training to the TriWest licensed counselors.
“The licensed behavioral health counselors most likely aren’t going to be retired Marines, they’re going to be straight civilians, maybe with no military history, but we have provided Marine acculturation training to them,” Olbrich said. “We have given them specific classes in the way a Marine thinks and feels; the way the Marine Corps operates. We’ve given them our culture in a class,” he said.
They work side-by-side with Marines and the retired Marines answering the calls.
“It was our goal, in partnering with Marine Corps leaders, to help them provide a connection for Marines and their families to people who understand them the best — and that’s former Marines or people who are trained and well-versed in Marine culture. We learned that that common bond is a very important connection point,” McIntyre said.
The contact center receives close to 1,000 calls or contacts per month, Olbrich said. The most popular form has been the chat service available online.
“These burdens and these behavioral health challenges that our Marines and families face, they’re pretty much equally shared by combat veterans as well as first term Marines that have never deployed,” Olbrich said.
“Marines are working very hard. And Marine families are having long separations from their Marine…I can’t directly point it at combat operations, but we can directly point the stress level at operational tempo.”
The DSTRESS Line can be reached by calling 1 (877) 476-7734, or at