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Wyoming Military Department creates new Integrated Primary Prevention Team aimed at taking care of its most important asset – its People

The Wyoming Military Department recently created an Integrated Primary Prevention team to prevent harmful behaviors and build cohesive teams within the WYMD. Headed by Mrs. Michelle Mulberry, this team is part of a national strategy by the National Guard Bureau to care for our most important asset in the Guard, our People.

The team partners with agencies in Wyoming like the Dept. of Health, the Governor’s Office, and the internal care teams for both the Army and Air National Guard and will research current trends in our communities. The team will use data from those trends to create preventive programs to address issues before they become a crisis.

“The overall goal for this program is to collaborate and build relationships in the state to get ahead of suicides, sexual assaults, domestic violence, substance abuse, everything that can potentially harm our Soldiers and Airmen,” says Mulberry.

Mulberry has taken on this new role after 23 years as a registered nurse. Eleven of those years were in the emergency department. Although the nurses there were not mental health nurses, they had to work closely with Mental Health to make sure patients were safe and received the resources to get the care they needed.

After working in the emergency department, Mulberry worked at Veterans Affairs, where she worked in mobile clinics and Telehealth. Here, she didn’t typically see anyone in a crisis, but quite the opposite. At the VA, veterans were more likely to be proactive in seeking mental health treatment because they could do so from the comfort and privacy of their homes.

“The VA is, and has been, years ahead in Telehealth,” says Mulberry. “That’s huge. I think that had helped our veterans seek the help they needed that they wouldn’t have done before if they’d had to go in person and walk into the mental health clinic.”

A large part of what the integrated primary prevention team will strive to do is to change the stigma of seeing a mental health provider and seek to make it part of routine health exams.

“Mental Health is no different from routine maintenance health. We have no problem going in and doing preventive health care for physical health, but we don’t for mental health,” says Mulberry. “We want to change that. We want to change it, so it’s normal to get mental health checkups regularly.”

The prevention team will benefit the WYMD and the WYNG by tracking the trends in our communities, especially those with armories, figuring out whom the team can work with within those communities, and what resources are available to our Soldiers and Airmen.

The National Guard Bureau allocated additional funding for every state to have a prevention workforce team. Currently, Mulberry is one of a team of four in Wyoming. There will be two prevention specialists, which are onboard in November, and one legal adviser.

“I’m excited about it. I’m excited that we are doing this nationally and that we’re all going to be working together to make ourselves a better force,” Mulberry says.