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Mental Health/Behavioral Health

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When you join the Commissioned Corps, you become a part of a dedicated team of professionals who work to improve the health of individuals, communities, and the Nation.

Meet some mental health/behavioral health officers from the Commissioned Corps.

Lieutenant Commander Mike Tilus
Mental Health Officer, Indian Health Service

From Army chaplain to Commissioned Corps officer…
LCDR Mike Tilus spent 12 years as an Army chaplain and served in the Gulf War. He wanted to stay in uniform and spend his professional career providing care to underserved communities, so he became a Corps officer in 2002. A psychologist in the Indian Health Service in South Dakota, LCDR Tilus treats six patients per day, providing counseling where there is an overwhelming need. He says, “Clinicians in the trenches really count success one life at a time. I hope and pray that the resources I bring make a difference.” LCDR Tilus has been deployed several times for disaster relief and finds it a tremendous opportunity to treat those who need it urgently. “I provide help to people in crisis and get them to the next level of care,” he says. Two of his three assignments in the Indian Health Service have been in remote sites, dealing with long-term chronic need with limited resources. An ordained minister, LCDR Tilus says, “American Indians welcome spiritual people, and their culture includes spirituality in the healing process.”

Commander Danisha Robbins
Scientist Officer, Health Resources and Services Administration

Transitioned from the military
Commander Danisha Robbins returned from Iraq having fulfilled her 7-year commitment to the Navy, where she provided mental health services to U.S. Marines. “I loved the military, but as my children reached school age, I did not want to have to move every 2 years,” she says. CDR Robbins joined another branch of the uniformed services, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, as chief of psychology services at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, FL, currently the largest immigration detention center on the east coast. CDR Robbins sees patients from all over the world, providing mental health evaluations, psychotherapy, and hospitalizations to detainees. “This job is very different from one I may have had as a civilian. The acute condition of some requires intensive treatment, but I love what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says.

Commander Wanda Finch
Mental Health Officer, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Empowering people and communities…
Commander Wanda Finch loves being a social worker and her enthusiasm is infectious. “I empower people, give them skills, and teach them how to take care of themselves for a lifetime. I will handhold if I have to. Social workers are probably the most flexible people in the world. We get along with everybody and look out for the greater good,” she says. CDR Finch works at the SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services, where she ensures that adults with mental health issues can get the care that they need. “We bridge gaps that exist for communities of color and for individuals who otherwise would not be served,” she explains. As an officer in the Commissioned Corps, she is proud to wear the uniform and work with like-minded officers who love what they do, too. “People respect the uniform and want to know what I do. I get to educate people about the important work of the Corps. I love knowing I can help people anywhere—I wouldn’t trade my job for anything in the world,” she says.

Commander Deborah Price
Mental Health Officer, Indian Health Service

A Corps career in the Indian Health Service…
Commander Deborah Price started her career in the Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (COSTEP) in 1987 in Fort Defiance, a Navajo community in New Mexico. “I knew from the time the plane landed that this was it for me and I’ve never looked back,” she says. Her career in the Commissioned Corps has allowed her to focus on public health, work in American Indian communities, treat American Indians in urban areas, and participate in emergency deployments. “American Indian communities are a unique population that historically has been underserved. Even in the urban areas, many members choose to get treatment at the Indian Health Service because it’s a cultural center as well as a health facility. We had the Indian market here yesterday and a powwow recently,” she says. For the first 9 years of CDR Price’s career she was a family nurse, and then she went back to school to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. “Being a psychiatric nurse practitioner is the best of both worlds—nursing and mental health. The great thing about being a Commissioned Corps officer is that we are able to provide care to clients who otherwise would not have received services. It’s a privilege to work with American Indians,” she says.

Lieutenant Commander Jamie Seligman
Mental Health Officer, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

A new family tradition…
Many officers in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps speak about the brotherhood of the Corps, but for LCDR Jamie Seligman it really is. “I saw my older brother become an officer in the Corps. I was in the Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (JRCOSTEP) in 2000 and became a commissioned officer in 2001. My brother was my recruiter and he’s a great mentor. It’s brought us a lot closer,” says LCDR Seligman. He was the first social worker at the El Paso Detention Center in El Paso, TX, where he treated hundreds of patients. Detainees often have to wait 6 to 12 months for processing and not knowing when they’re being released is very stressful. Most of his patients were not criminals and not used to being in that kind of facility. LCDR Seligman loves his job and makes a difference in people’s lives. “There’s a real camaraderie among the uniformed services. As an officer, I’m able to change my job track and focus on social work even when I’m not providing clinical care. There’s no better career than the Corps,” he says.

If you are a student or mental health/behavioral health professional interested in the Commissioned Corps, take the next step! E-mail us your questions, call us at 800-279-1605, or apply online now.

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Last updated on 7/9/2008