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FALLS CHURCH, Va. - A Navy program connecting Sailors and Marines who were involved in or close to a non-combat incident, accident, or suicide, with mental health assistance, has reached more than 2,200 sailors since it’s inception.
The program, Organizational Incident Operational Nexus (ORION), began as a pilot program through the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) following the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collisions in 2017. The success led to ORION’s implementation as an enterprise-wide program in 2021.
When ORION is activated, outreach coordinators conduct caring contacts with Sailors and Marines at routine intervals for one year after the incident. They ask if they are receiving care, or if they are interested in accessing care. If an individual is interested in a referral to mental healthcare, then ORION outreach coordinators work with them to ensure a connection to the level of care they prefer. Service members are offered options for mental health services to include direct care at military treatment facilities or embedded mental health, purchased care through the TRICARE network, or care through Military One Source, Fleet and Family Support Services, Marine Corps Community Services, and Military and Family Life Counseling.
ORION is used following unit-level, non-combat incidents that involve unexpected loss of life or potential loss of life. ORION can also be activated at the discretion of a commanding officer. After activation, the chain of command works with the Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control (NCCOSC) to determine which of their command servicemembers may have been most affected by the event.
“Tragic events don’t typically impact just one or two people, they can have a far-reaching impact and that is especially true in a military unit,” said U.S. Navy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham. “ORION helps our commanding officers provide access to care which will help the people they lead process the impact of unpredictable and tragic events. The Navy’s highest priority is keeping every member of the Navy family as mentally and physically healthy as possible and ORION gives us another tool to help make sure our sailors receive the personal care and attention they need.”
Since ORION’s inception in 2018, ORION coordinators have contacted 2,813 Sailors and Marines from 18 commands who were identified as at risk for psychological injury after exposure to a unit trauma. Outreach coordinators have successfully reached 2,208 of the 2,813 (78%) and connected 421 (19%), to the level of care desired. Without ORION, those 421 Service members may not have sought timely care.
While every Commander hopes there is never a need to activate ORION, we encourage Commanders and senior medical department representatives to familiarize themselves with BUMED Instruction 6010.33 to better understand ORION’s complementary role to existing psychological health resources. There is “No Wrong Door” for Sailors and Marines to get the help they need, and leaders should encourage use of the full spectrum of resources available.
For additional information on ORION please refer to BUMED Instruction 6010.33. Senior medical department representatives can, with the approval of their command leadership, contact NCCOSC to activate ORION by either calling (619) 532-7484 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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