Helen Romeyn, a Family Advocacy nurse, gives informational booklets to Lei-Andrea Banks and her husband, Staff Sgt. Adrian Banks, the operations manager at the Bellamy Fitness Center, about newborns like their own, Kerrington, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Nov. 8, 2017. The New Parent Support Program is a community-based program that serves families with children three years old and under. 

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE | Inside the Mental Health Clinic at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., the Family Advocacy Program reaches out to the community with counseling and classes.

A small group of dedicated individuals are striving to keep families mentally healthy to ensure they are capable of dealing with challenges at home and work.

“Our main priority is to give families the tools they need to be successful,” said David Butler, a Family Advocacy Program Assistant. “We work heavily with commanders and first sergeants because they help refer individuals to us for marital or financial problems so we can nip it in the bud before it becomes a serious problem.”

The program has multiple facets including counseling, outreach, a New Parent Support Program and Family Advocacy Strength-Based Therapy. All sides of the program work closely with one another to make families happier at home and individuals more effective in the workplace.

The program also focuses on prevention. They host counseling sessions to help people recognize problems they may face in the future.

“We have to do our best to make sure we help people with their problems,” said Kimberly Kohler, the Family Advocacy outreach manager. “Even a pea sized problem can become something too big to deal with later on and that’s why we want to help people realize and understand these issues.”

Furthermore, the program offers individuals help with parenting, relationship and self-improvement. The classes include a New Dad’s class, Baby on the Way, Teen Dating Safety, Anger and Stress Management, Effective Communication and several others.

“I help co-facilitate some of the classes we offer here on base including financial, marital counseling and domestic violence prevention and education,” said Master Sgt. Luis Guillen-Diaz, the mental health flight chief assigned to the 28th Medical Group. “These classes can have a large impact on someone who needs help.”

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“We work with the community to host events all year round,” Guillen-Diaz said. “In October we held the Domestic Violence Awareness Month Bowling event where people came out and were able to have fun in a safe environment while being educated.”

Guillen-Diaz says that the most important thing for the Family Advocacy Program is building strong families. He wants to make sure families take care of their issues in healthy ways.

“We want happy families and that’s what we are all about,” Butler said. “If base families are strong, then the military is stronger. If we can teach people good coping, communication, and parenting skills it impacts not just the family, but it also transfers over to their relationships with their co-workers as well.”

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Managing editor

Chris Huber is the managing editor at the Rapid City Journal.