Army Says its Popular Confidential Alcohol Rehab Program Pilot Can’t Expand Due to Staff, Funding Limitations

Army Tests Confidential Alcohol Abuse Program

by Patricia Murphy
National Public Radio, July 13, 2011

BLOGBACK: Recent data reported by the Institute of Medicine Sept. 17, 2012, revealed 50 percent of active duty soldiers self-identified as binge drinkers, more than double the rate Army officials reported in 2011. Also, according to a recent Army brief on Substance Use Disorders by Col. Charles S. Milliken, MD, soldiers who had been identified during screening as having alcohol problems also reported struggles with thoughts of killing themselves. Milliken also reported that in a population of 56,350 soldiers surveyed six months after returning home from combat, 6,669 screened positive for alcohol problems on their Post-Deployment Health Re-assesment Survey (PDHRA) … and of those 6,669 problem drinkers, only 29 of them (0.05%) received referral to any treatment program within 90 days. The Army’s negligence to provide treatment referrals for soldiers screening positive for substance abuse, or other serious medical problems, must be considered complicit in the ongoing suicide epidemic. Commanders must be held accountable for these failures, which certainly are grounded in basic professional/medical ethics and leadership.

(NPR) — About 20 percent of Army personnel report problem drinking.

The number is statistically similar to the civilian population, but a recent study by the Department of Defense finds that binge drinking is increasing among the ranks.

In response, the Army has been testing a new program to reach out to soldiers in need of help by offering a confidential treatment option.

Army research shows that many soldiers are reluctant to seek help because it involves notifying unit command. Binge drinking — defined as five or more drinks in a row — is often intertwined with soldiers’ mental health issues like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The results can be deadly: accidents, suicide and family violence.

The Army’s Confidential Alcohol Treatment Education Pilot, or CATEP, is designed to get soldiers into treatment before they have an alcohol-related incident.

Since the CATEP pilot program started at three military installations in 2009, it’s been expanded to six.

There are 38 soldiers enrolled in the program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

The base sits in the middle of State Trooper Guy Gill’s patrol area.
“If I had to say a specific incident where we have to contact the military a lot,” Gill says, “a lot of those times [it] is for DUIs, for drinking and driving.”

Consequences For Problems

Gill is on his way to the base to brief troop members from the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment on military safety.

He knows this is a tough crowd, so his presentation includes graphic images of car crashes and dead bodies.

“If we can stop one of those guys from this weekend going out and getting in their car drunk and getting into a collision and killing himself or his buddy, we’re doing good,” Gill says. “That’s what we want.”

Soldiers face numerous consequences if they’re arrested for DUI or flagged by a commanding officer for problem drinking. They can lose their rank or even be discharged.

“They very much recognize that it’s better for them to ask for help and be able to receive it than it is for them to not ask and end up in serious hot water,” says Dr. Jolee Darnell, head of the Army Substance Abuse Program at Lewis-McChord.

Darnell says CATEP tends to attract older, higher-ranking soldiers and officers who have managed to stay under the radar but have finally decided to get help.

“It works best for people who recognize that some things are not going right in their life and they need to do some things differently,” she says.

While confidentiality is at the heart of the program, weekly meetings and off-duty counseling appointments are what make CATEP different.

Soldiers can also meet in civilian clothing, which allows them to keep their ranks private.

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