Finding the Funding
Bixler says that, while Penn State had worked with the military before, it hadn’t yet done anything on this specific topic. She was enthusiastic about the idea of using national partnerships with federal behavioral health agencies in Pennsylvania to benefit the state’s Guards and Reserves, and she got to work right away drafting up a budget.
However, being a self-sustaining CME department that must cover all direct costs involved with an activity, “We quickly realized that there was going to be a shortfall,” Bixler says. So she and Pepe thought about potential funders who would also have a vested interest in serving this community of providers to improve the lives of returning military and their families.
The answer they came up with was Health Net Federal Services LLC, the managed care support contractor the Department of Defense uses to provide civilian sector physical and behavioral healthcare services to nearly three million active and retired National Guard/Reserve members and their families who live in the 23 states that make up the TRICARE North Region, including Pennsylvania.
According to Health Net’s medical director, Joyce Grissom, MD, “It was a natural fit for us. We were happy to pitch in some financial support and to have the opportunity to inform them about the TRICARE benefit and VA benefits.”
This is particularly important in Pennsylvania, she says, where returning guard and service members are “geographically challenged” when it comes to getting care in a DoD or VA facility, since they are few and far between in the state. “We wanted to work with nonmilitary care providers to meet their needs,” she says.