Officers Help Service Members to Get ‘The Care They Deserve’

June 1, 2014


LCDR Nakeya Pryor-Bazemore

In 2010, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) created the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), a program that determines whether wounded, ill, or injured service members are able to continue to serve. Those who are fit for duty return to service and those who are unable to return receive a disability rating for VA compensation and benefits. IDES aims to make disability evaluation seamless, fast, and fair for service members, veterans, and their families.

However, for those with severe, persistent mental illness, the logistics and paperwork needed for IDES can be daunting. To support these vulnerable patients through IDES, the Naval Medical Center at Portsmouth established the Continuity of Psychiatric Care (CPC) program. LCDR Nakeya Pryor-Bazemore, a nurse officer, is the Program Manager for CPC.

“We work with a high-risk population; these members wouldn’t seek care after discharge if we weren’t here to help them through the process,” says LCDR Pryor-Bazemore. “CPC is about getting them the care they deserve.”

CPC’s intensive case management expedites the IDES process from 295 days to 126. While patients are ushered through IDES, they receive medication monitoring and have access to counseling, life skills groups, spirituality groups, art therapy, recreational therapy, and more. “Anything they need, we help them with,” says LCDR Pryor Bazemore, which she adds can also range from taking a patient to get a driver’s license to serving as their advocate in legal issues.

The CPC program at Portsmouth is the only such program in the Navy, and it’s growing. Under the leadership of LCDR Pryor-Bazemore, CPC has expanded from 12 patients in 2010 to 58 patients in 2013. The program works with patients from all military services who have psychiatric diagnoses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorder, and more. “This program has opened my eyes to the great need for this population,” says LCDR Pryor-Bazemore, who anticipates 90 patients in 2014.

The CPC team employs an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) model, which is a team-based approach to providing comprehensive and flexible outpatient treatment to individuals with serious mental illness. Patients in the program check-in three times a day with a member of LCDR Pryor-Bazemore’s team, which includes herself and another nurse, a psychiatrist, a licensed clinical social worker and seven psychiatric technicians. “We use the team approach to work with our patients; not as individual counselors or individual nurses. Our team members are informed and know the history on everyones patients,” says CDR Darrell Harris, a nurse officer also serving CPC.


CDR Darrell Harris

The team’s approach has proven successful in keeping patients on a path to recovery. “Because there’s constant contact, counseling, and interaction between our staff and our patients, we all can detect sudden behavioral changes and when someone is not improving. We’ve been instrumental in keeping patients from returning to inpatient care or perhaps derailing legal issues,” says CDR Harris.

This method also allows patients to build trust with CPC providers. “When our patients interact with the same team day in and day out, trust is established and the service members are more apt to communicate when private or serious issues arise,” says CDR Harris.

CPC gives patients much-needed support for their transition from military to civilian life. “When our patients are making this transition, they are unsure of what they want for themselves or their future,” says LCDR Pryor-Bazemore. “I’m very proud to serve them and help them get through this chapter in their life.”