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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Sept. 23, 2022

New training opportunity for health services specialists 

By Chief Petty Officer William D. Day, Senior Behavioral Health Technician, HSWL, Alameda, California

The Health, Safety, and Work-Life (HSWL) Directorate is soliciting for active duty HSs to attend this specialized training for fiscal year 2023, in which the Coast Guard will be allotted 10 standing seats and three space-available seats at the Medical Education Training Campus (METC) for behavioral health training. In fiscal year 2024, that number will increase to 13 standing seats annually. If you are an active duty HS in pay grades E4 to E6, and are interested in this training, you are encouraged to apply by Sep. 30.

In order to increase access to behavioral health care across the service and expand the enlisted behavioral health workforce, the Coast Guard has established a path for HSs to receive behavioral health training. HSs who are interested in becoming trained behavioral health, now have an opportunity to attend C-school Medical Education Training Campus (METC), Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Upon completion, these HSs will then be behavioral health technicians (BHT).

Health services technicians (HS) who are trained in Behavioral Health will positively impact the Coast Guard in a cost-effective way to extend behavioral health services to the workforce, ultimately improving access to care. 

Why become a BHT
As a BHT, you will ensure proper patient follow-up and attendance in care, while also assisting with providing psychological assessment and diagnostic services, support to command leadership, and primary prevention training. BHTs further optimize the lower cost for in-house treatment by reducing the amount of time Coast Guard providers spend on patient interviews, care coordination, and documentation. This, in turn, optimizes BH provider time in order to see more patients. In addition, it reduces the total number of BH referrals through primary prevention efforts, thereby enhancing workforce readiness and decreasing the wait time to see BH providers.

Published recommendations from a RAND report describe BHTs as care extenders, with the goal of expanding access to care and improving the quality of services provided to service members. According to a 2017 Military Medicine study (“Embedded Mental Health: Promotion of Psychological Hygiene Within a Submarine Squadron”), a pilot program in the Navy to embed BH assets, including BHTs, into units was found to increase in the number of sailors served and the proportion of sailors returning to duty after seeking BH care. This positive impact on retention and readiness should be seen within the Coast Guard after training a BHT workforce, by increasing BH access to care and meeting the Coast Guard’s intent to support our workforce.

Please direct all questions related to the BHT C-school solicitation to Chief Petty Officer William D. Day, Senior BHT, Pacific Area, or Chief Petty Officer Jordan N. Suchon, Senior BHT, Atlantic Area.