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Agency helps special-needs Families

Marion Cornish, Exceptional Family Member Program manager, reads to Families during a Story Time session for the EFMP Child Find Campaign last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Marion Cornish, Exceptional Family Member Program manager, reads to Families during a Story Time session for the EFMP Child Find Campaign last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: August 29, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 29, 2014) -- Taking care of an Army Family takes a lot of hard work, love and dedication, and Families with special needs can make that undertaking a top priority with one Army program.

The Exceptional Family Member Program at Fort Rucker is designed to help active-duty Soldiers and Family members who have any type of special need and ensure that those services are available to them as they move throughout their military career, said Marion Cornish, EFMP program manager.

“Our mission is to help identify Soldiers who have Family members with special needs and make sure the services are available to them,” said Cornish.

The term “special needs” covers a broad spectrum, said the EFMP manager, and includes Family members who need early intervention services, special education services, counseling services, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, specialized care services, even if it’s only once a year, and a myriad of other requirements.

There are two major components to the EFMP program, said Cornish: the support side, which is Army Community Service, which provides patient referrals, advocacy, workshops, trainings and respite care; and the medical side, which falls under Lyster Army Health Clinic, which oversees health screenings, enrollment and disenrollment, and updates to medical records.

“When disenrollment is involved for whatever reason, the Soldier must make sure to visit the nearest Army medical EFMP office to do so, even if they are stationed at a post of a different armed forces branch,” she said.

Cornish said Families who need to enroll in EFMP or want to see if they are eligible for EFMP services should call to make an appointment.

The screening process starts off at the EFMP website,, which will give Family members access to forms that they must fill out, said the EFMP manager

“Even with those forms, those Family members need to touch base with their medical EFMP office because they will be able to take them step-by-step through the whole process,” she said. “Some services will require the health care provider’s signature.”

Once the paperwork is done and filed, Family members will be screened by a physician at LAHC to make sure everything is in order, and Cornish reassures that Families won’t have to go through the process alone.

The most popular service is respite care, said Cornish, which helps primary caregivers of qualifying Families get time away from their daily routine. If a Family meets all the requirements, they can receive this service for a maximum of 40 hours a month at no cost to them.

“Sometimes there’s a lot our Families with special needs have to go through,” Cornish said. “So if you can get a break, even just for a little while, you can come back refreshed and ready to deal with the things you have to deal with on a regular basis.”

This time can be used to catch up on daily routines, errands or even simple things like grocery shopping, said the EFMP manager.

“A lot of us don’t understand how much an undertaking it can be just to go to the grocery store if you have a Family member with special needs,” she said. “We don’t think about all the orchestration involved.”

On occasion, a Soldier’s request for a specific duty station can be denied based on the needs of the Family, but in the rare circumstances in which a Soldier’s request is denied or that Soldier is moved to a place where there are no services for their Family member, EFMP is there to help the Family explore other options.

Though enrollment in EFMP may affect the places a Soldier can go, it won’t affect any promotions as information about EFMP enrollment is never provided to the board that determines promotions, said Cornish.

“If you’re in doubt, just call us and talk with us and we can give you some preliminary information over the phone,” she said. “The program is designed to help, and the end result is the Army concerned for the overall wellbeing of the Family.”

For more information, call 255-9277.

This article was originally published at

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