EFMP helps guide special needs families through processes

  • Published
  • By Monica Mendoza
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
You can think of Jackie Wickham as a personal process guide for Air Force and sister families assigned to Peterson Air Force Base, navigating the maze of agencies and services available to people with special needs.

She is the Exceptional Family Member coordinator on Peterson Air Force Base, a new position to the base and to the Air Force. She is the only EFMP coordinator in Air Force Space Command. It is her job to help connect families to the resources and agencies on and off base for children and adults who have special needs.

"I am trying to make a clear and simple way to navigate the system," Ms. Wickham said.

Anyone who has been in the system can testify that it is filled with agencies, acronyms and jargon that can be intimidating and difficult to understand. Some may have trouble finding the right agency or service that meets individual's needs, Ms. Wickham said. She has a three-inch thick binder filled with the names of local and state agencies that help people with needs from traumatic brain injury to behavioral issues. She also can help guide families through such things as understanding and completing the Medicaid waivers or the Extended Care Health Option through the TRICARE program.

This year, the Air Force added 35 EFMP coordinators to complement its Special Needs Identification and Coordination Program, which ensures military members can receive the services they need when a medical or special educational condition exists.

The new EFMP coordinators will fill a void for families, especially those who have just moved to Colorado Springs, said Lisa Ballard, 21st Space Wing school liaison officer, who often fields questions about special education programs in the local schools.

"When you first move here, you don't know where to go," she said.

On Peterson, there are 253 active duty special needs families enrolled in the Special Needs Identification and Coordination Program and 85 from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. A special need can be medical needs, which require specialized care for ongoing chronic illness or educational needs, which require special academic programs.

Ms. Wickham, who has a background in social work, said the long-range goals include adding respite care for family members who have a family member that requires around-the-clock care, and school advocacy to help parents know their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

"Right now, I can give parents the tools and resources to be advocates for their family members," Ms. Wickham said. "I want to remove the barriers for parents."

· Contact Jackie Wickham, Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator, at (719) 556-6141.
· Find "Peterson EFMP" on Facebook for information about classes, workshops and other events.