Connecting Airmen, Guardians, family members to care

  • Published
  • By Rebecca Ward
  • Integrated Resilience
Connect to Care is a new approach to providing support for Airmen, Guardians, and their families in which all providers, regardless of area of responsibility, will personally guide each individual or group to the support services they need. This new approach is in response to the 2021 Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military and its recommendation to prioritize the needs of individuals seeking care and support by ensuring seamless coordination between helping agencies - known as a “warm handoff” within the IRC. 

The Pacific Air Forces’ Integrated Resilience team was among the first to receive training in Connect to Care. Drew Kadokawa, PACAF’s Community Support Program Manager and Community Action Team Chair, said the new approach formalizes a process that was, for the most part, already being carried out.

“I feel like most of our providers and supervisors are already doing this. This [Connect to Care] is a utilization reporting system and training to make sure we are doing it right and in the most efficient way possible,” Kadokawa said. 

The utilization reporting system will capture the total number of referrals and the specific agencies that receive those referrals. Service provider offices, squadrons, and First Sergeants will capture data from their respective encounters with an individual or group, and the agency to which they were referred. 

Kadokawa's team was one of the first to take the Connect to Care training, which is the beginning of a months-long, but thorough process to train DAF personnel. This training will assist those who may be able to give referrals to Airmen and Guardians for other helping agencies.

“It’s a four-phased approach and the first phase was to train the trainer, which Air Force Personnel Center conducted. The next phase of it, parts two and three, is the rollout to the installation command teams and the service providers,” Kadokawa said.  

In the final phase, training facilitators will educate all front-line supervisors. Each phase of the training is slightly different with direct providers, such as Chaplains, or Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, having longer, more detailed instruction. Kadokawa said that is because the providers are more likely to have Airmen, Guardians, and family members come to them directly for help with an issue.
“So, we need to make sure they understand what each agency does and how to account for referrals through Connect to Care, and that we’re sending them to the right places to get the help they need,” Kadokawa said.
The Connect to Care approach is the foundation of a one-stop shop concept. For example, if a spouse who was the victim of domestic violence sought help from a SARC, they would then guide the spouse to a Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate by contacting the DAVA directly, with the spouse’s permission. Kadokawa said that creates a reliable and person-centered experience for Airmen, Guardians and DAF family members who choose to explore support options. 

Kadokawa said, “For someone who is requesting serious, immediate assistance, if you refer them to the wrong agency, or just give them the information and send them out the door, they may not reach out again.”

Connect to Care aims to ensure no individual or group encounters an obstacle to the support they need, and to provide seamless coordination among helping resources. 

Kadokawa said providers can make a referral three different ways: by picking up the phone and calling the next provider, personally walking the individual(s) to another provider’s location, or contacting the other provider virtually from a computer.

Referrals are up to the individual(s) seeking information or support and only with their consent. Progress and success of the Connect to Care approach will be measured by feedback from the individuals served, and through installation commanders who will capture the total number of connections and agencies that receive the referrals. The metrics will not include any personal identifiable information.

The intention of the Connect to Care approach is the same as the Co-Location pilot, which places helping agencies within the same location. Both prioritize the needs of Airmen, Guardians, and their family members by ensuring providers refer those requesting help are personally directed to the support they need. Connect to Care makes it possible to guide them to the right resource regardless of where the helping agency or provider is located.