Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas --
Multiple agencies came together to identify ways to improve the respite care program for Exceptional Family Member Program members during a rapid improvement event at the Air Force’s Personnel Center, Nov. 17-20.
Led by Tami Nelson, transformation leader for Headquarters Air Force and Ken Brunson, continuous process improvement program manager at AFPC, the team of personnel from the Air Force Services Center, AFPC Exceptional Assignment Programs division, and Headquarters Air Force Services managers, and others went through an in-depth process to determine the root cause of problems and create solutions.
“The current respite care process is seen as ineffective, confusing and slow,” Nelson said. “There are not enough providers in the system and the approval process for a provider is not clearly understood. Families are frustrated and rightfully so.”
Respite care is a program that provides temporary rest periods to reduce stress for EFMP family members or primary caregivers who are providing regular care for individuals with disabilities and significant special needs.
During the four-day event, the team began by viewing the problem from the families’ perspective, identified their objective of providing families a functional respite care program and implemented process improvements and measures to meet it.
The group mapped out the current state of the respite care program and collectively brainstormed problems areas, identifying issues with enrollment, access to providers and a lack of streamlined guidance.
This was the first blended (in-person and virtual) Rapid Improvement Event conducted at AFPC since March, and all COVID-19 precautions were followed to ensure the health and safety of the participants.
“The event was extremely successful with great participation,” Brunson said. “The diverse team was able to work through the current state, identify 15 core problems, perform root cause analysis and produce an action plan with countermeasures that will make Respite Care a better program for the Department of the Air Force.”
The problems were consolidated into three main topics for a countermeasures action plan: lack of policy, a need for metrics and a perceived lack of transparency.
“I’m excited to see the positive outcomes from this RIE, which will positively impact families who rely on the respite program,” said Col. Christopher Parrish, commander of Air Force Services Center. “Our goal at the Services Center is to administer the respite program in a simple, caring manner consistent with the intent of the program – to give EFMP parents a much needed break from their day-to-day routine.”
Program managers from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps took part in the event to share best practices as well as problem areas in their respective programs. The team plans to take some of the lessons learned into consideration as they develop written respite care policy for the Department of the Air Force.
“We have an aggressive goal to get the policy coordinated and approved early 2021 so we can begin implementing and communicating to our families,” Nelson said. “This is just the beginning of our respite care journey. We have heard your concerns, and we are working relentlessly to improve the respite care program and better serve our Airmen, Space professionals and families.”