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Patriotic Article
By Cat DeBinder

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Safe Harbor Program Supports Troops, Families
(May 26, 2010)

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BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- Wounded, ill and injured service members face a multitude of challenges throughout their recovery process; to ensure they can concentrate on their recovery, Navy Safe Harbor program provides assistance with non-medical issues.

The Navy Safe Harbor program is the Navy's lead organization for coordinating the non-medical care of wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen and their families. Dedicated to non-medical needs, the organization's management services are designed to fit each service member's unique requirements. They handle such things as pay and personnel issues, lodging and housing adaptation, transportation, legal and guardianship matters.

"Navy Safe Harbor provides a systematic approach to providing a continuum of non-medical care to our recovering Sailors and Coast Guardsmen by working in concert with organizations both within and outside of the Navy," said Commanding Officer, Navy Safe Harbor Command Capt. Key Watkins. "Safe Harbor assistance has proven to be invaluable to our enrolled shipmates by lifting much of the burden from them and allowing them to remain focused on their recovery and rehabilitation activities."

"We provide lifetime tailored assistance and assist with the successful recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration into society for our Sailors and Coast Guardsmen who are seriously ill or injured," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Kendall Hillier who is a non-medical care manager in charge of Navy Safe Harbor's Bethesda satellite office.

"We also work with their families," she said, "because families are an integral part of the recovery process."

Hillier said the patients they work with are not all wounded warriors. Some are injured in shipboard, car and motorcycle accidents, or have cancer or other serious physical and psychological illnesses. She added not all are inpatients, some are outpatients and in different stages of their recovery process.

"Safe Harbor currently has over 1,000 actively engaged patients in the program nationwide," said Hillier. "It started in 2005 with a staff of three and enrollment of 20 war-wounded Sailors, at that time only war-wounded Sailors were eligible for the program."

Hillier also noted what is unique about the Safe Harbor program from others is a reserve surge support team that can be rapidly activated in the event of a large scale disaster or when multiple casualties occur within a short time frame.

They also have the Anchor Program, a Reserve Component Retiree Council partnership of volunteer mentors that provide lifelong contact with enrollees and their families.

"The program has been absolutely helpful and they are a wonderful group to have helping out," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jacob Emmott, a Safe Harbor enrollee and former National Naval Medical Center inpatient injured in Afghanistan. Emmott said Hillier was assigned to him as a case manager. "She handled a paycheck issue for me," he said. "She really did everything she could every chance she got — especially when I was in the ICU."

Emmott said it was a pleasure being taken care of by Hillier. He would love to come work for her some day. Emmott's mother, April, said the attention and the care they received from Hillier was wonderful.

"From day one, even before Jake arrived, she reassured us and maneuvered us around for everything we needed," she said. "It has made our visit 'Jake-specific' and we didn't have to deal with any other details."

Emmott's father, Bob, was pleased with and grateful to the Navy Safe Harbor program and its members at the Bethesda office.

"They steered us toward everything to help us," he said.

By Cat DeBinder
National Naval Medical Center Public Affairs
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Navy News Service

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