A subsidiary of Avon-based Magellan Health Services said it started a contract last week to manage counseling services for the U.S. military.

The Military & Family Life Counseling program will be administered by Magellan Behavioral Health Inc. for about $70 million annually, Magellan said. The one-year contract with the U.S. Department of the Interior, for the federal Department of Defense, began Aug. 15 and includes an option to renew for four additional one-year terms.

Magellan Chairman and CEO, René Lerer, said in a prepared statement: "The stresses of military life, particularly in times of war and conflict, are always a serious concern in the military community, and it's never been more important for our armed forces and their families to have access to comprehensive life counseling support and tools to improve their quality of life."

The contract means that Magellan will be the administrator of mental-health benefits serving active-duty military and their family members, the National Guard and Reserves members in the U.S. and abroad.

The Military & Family Life Counseling program started in 2004, as military forces were fighting in the Middle East, to help "ensure readiness of the force, decrease distractions and enhance the quality of life for service members and their families." Counseling services are to help the military members with: adjusting to living in new places, dealing with stress related to being deployed to a war zone, being separated from family, homesickness, grief and loss, isolation, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Magellan is a specialty insurer that manages behavioral health, radiology and specialty pharmaceutical benefits for employers and government entities. Magellan has about 33.7 million members in its behavioral health business, 17.1 million in radiology benefits and 7 million in medical pharmacy management.