Coast Guard improves access to mental health care

A new Coast Guard policy will require supervisors to refer personnel to a health care provider for an evaluation as soon as service members request assistance.

  • The U.S. Coast Guard is formalizing its approach to obtaining behavioral health programs and improving access to mental health care for its service members. A new policy will require commanding officers and supervisors to refer their personnel to a health care provider for an evaluation as soon as service members request assistance. While the Coast Guard plans to implement parts of the Brandon Act to improve its behavioral health program, the service needed a slightly different implementation strategy. The service has also published a behavioral health playbook to support leadership on issues related to mental health. In addition, the Coast Guard is separating its suicide prevention mandatory training from the sexual assault prevention training, making them stand-alone courses.
    (Behavioral Health Update - U.S. Coast Guard)
  • The General Services Administration is ready to take the next step in setting up its new contract for cloud services. GSA is outlining its initial thinking of what pools 2 and 3 will look like under the ASCEND blanket purchase agreement for cloud services. In a request for information, GSA is asking vendors to comment on the three categories of software-as-a-service it wants to focus on, including office productivity, customer relationship management and IT service and asset management. Under Pool 3, GSA wants comments on the service areas it chose, including application rationalization, multi-cloud management and cloud governance and policy development. Feedback on both RFIs is due by March 29.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is launching a probe into the cyber attack on Change Healthcare. HHS’s Office of Civil Rights said it will investigate whether sensitive patient data was exposed in the ransomware attack. Change Healthcare said a ransomware gang accessed some of its IT systems in late February. The cyber incident has upended the healthcare industry, leading to widespread delays in processing claims and payments.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has big plans for artificial intelligence this year. DHS is setting up an AI sandbox that will allow components to experiment with large language models. That is one of the major goals for 2024 under DHS’s new AI roadmap, released Monday. It details several use cases for AI at DHS, ranging from training immigration officers to aiding law enforcement investigations. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will also evaluate how AI could be used to find and fix cyber vulnerabilities.
  • NATO’s Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) is expanding its transatlantic network of accelerator sites and test centers. The number of tech sites will go from 11 to 23 and the network will add 92 test sites in 28 allied countries. The DIANA program was set up to accelerate the development of emerging technologies, including artificial Intelligence, cyber and autonomous systems. Last year, 44 companies joined the program to tackle challenges related to undersea sensing and surveillance and secure information sharing.
  • As many as 68,000 more Defense Department contractors will be able to join the unclassified cybersecurity information sharing program. The Pentagon finalized updated requirements to the Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity Program that expands eligibility requirements, including eliminating the need to have an existing active facility clearance. DoD said the desire for more companies to join the cyber program drove its decision to revamp the eligibility requirements. Of all the applicants seeking to join the program in 2022, 45% were from vendors deemed ineligible. The new eligibility requirements take effect on April 11.
  • After five years of study, the National Institutes of Health is still stumped by Havana Syndrome, which was first reported in Cuba by American personnel who suffered headaches, balance problems and trouble sleeping. NIH published two papers yesterday detailing its research. MRI scans revealed no detectable brain injuries and batteries of other tests showed no biological abnormalities. However, NIH's senior investigator said that only means that if an event caused the symptoms, it left no persistent physiological markers or changes. But participants with Havana Syndrome did show significant symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and 41% qualified for a functional neurological disorder diagnosis.
  • The Defense Department is about to get a lot more authority to hire and retain managers in its science and technology labs. The military’s 22 Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratories (STRLs) already have substantial leeway to operate outside of the government’s usual pay and personnel rules. But a notice DoD published last week would build on those flexibilities. Some of the changes: STRLs will be allowed to temporarily promote employees to supervisor and team leader positions, and offer bonuses of up to 50% of their base salary to retain them. The new authorities take effect on April 15.

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