True North offers support for active duty members

  • Published
  • By Kendra Williams, 55th Wing Public Affairs

True North opened at Offutt AFB in April of this year. The program provides limited scope counselors, which are licensed mental health providers trained to understand the unique pressures associated with high stress organizations.

LSCs address problems that may arise as a result of work or family concerns before they impact duty performance or relationships. For example, an LSC can help develop plans for tobacco cessation or other lifestyle changes, as well as assist with a variety of concerns such as difficulties with family/relationships, grief, excess stress, depression, anxiety or anger.  

“I was drawn to the mental health field through family and close friends who struggled with mental health and kept it a secret – until things went very wrong,” said Dr. Shauna Crim, True North clinical manager. “It was really painful to realize that people I loved were hurting so badly and no one knew. “

LSCs add another facet to a military member’s health care. A member can generally be seen within their unit and the counselor will not provide in-depth, long term psychotherapy. Instead, the counselor will focus on specific behavioral changes associated with the concern you have.  

“If I had not had people that I could reach out to during those times in my life, I might be someone who kept things inside until things went wrong,” said Crim. “I feel honored to be a part of True North. I am honored by those who trust me enough to share their struggles and allow me to be a part of their lives for a time. Life can be painful but can also be beautiful, especially if we have people around us to lean on when we need it.”

The counselor is not a crisis counselor; nor are they permitted to manage emergencies or moderate to severe mental health conditions or problems within the unit. If emergency services are needed, the counselor will arrange for the person to be seen at the installation’s Mental Health Clinic immediately or arrange for transportation to the nearest emergency department. 

“I am very excited at the chances True North offers for our providers to help both the Airmen who serve and the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth as a whole,” said John Carlson, True North lead clinical social worker. “I am amazed at what the Warhawks accomplish every day, and I’m thrilled to have a chance to help them get better and healthier while dealing with a mission where the sun never sets.”

True North will make every effort to protect privacy and confidentiality consistent with military and federal regulations. However, they may share information with primary care providers or a flight surgeon, and other members of a health care team. Airmen have the right to stop counseling services at any time and to cancel appointments at any time without notification being made to commanders.   

“When I was working as a private practice clinical social worker, I began working with more and more active and retired members of the military and really saw how they have unique and specific challenges for themselves and their families,” said Carlson.

The counselor shares brief, solution-focused skills and techniques that might help Airmen feel better. Service members will be seen by the counselor in their unit to ensure ease of access and minimal time away from work. The goal of care is to get Airmen back to full mission effectiveness with minimal disruption to the duty schedule.