Late Breaking News
A Year Without Alcohol Incident
- Categorized in: Addiction, Department of Defense (DoD), February 2013, Marine Corps, Navy, News, Rehabilitation
If a servicemember sent to the Impact program goes one year after treatment with no alcohol-related incident, the intervention is considered a success.
For those needing more-intensive interventions, the Navy has numerous outpatient programs available, providing anywhere from 56 to 128 hours of treatment. What that treatment includes depends greatly on physician recommendations. If necessary, a sailor can be admitted for residential inpatient treatment — a five-week course of treatment and detoxification.
In the case of alcohol and substance abuse, it is the weeks and months after a patient leaves treatment that can be the most difficult and the most important for assuring long-term success. This is where the Navy’s programs excel, Gould said.
“The Navy is the only military program that has an after-care program for a year. We’ve even expanded it to include phone-based and Web-based programs,” he said.
Because of the mobile nature of the military, the Navy wanted to make sure its personnel had access to after-care treatment anywhere in the world.
“They have access to a huge amount of resources,” Gould said. “They have a coach who will respond to an email from them. They have access to all our resource libraries.”
They will also be able to set up their own support group, usually consisting of colleagues with whom they went through treatment, so they feel comfortable.
Counselors are military members who have received specialized training in outreach, screening, assessment, and treatment of alcohol and substance abuse. The 11-week training program for counselors at the Surface Warfare Medical Institute in San Diego offers Navy and international civilian certifications and focuses on honing group-therapy skills, one-on-one counseling and recognizing mental-health issues that might arise. Personnel who have completed it are in high demand once they leave the military.
“We have a great reputation for training counselors,” Gould said. “Once they choose to get out of the Navy, they get snatched up by civilian [treatment] programs.”
While the Navy has a lot of backstops in place to support sailors with alcohol problems, they usually only get one incident that results in a treatment referral. The second incident results in the Navy beginning an administrative discharge.
The Navy will continue to provide services throughout the discharge process, however, and will make an effort to place that servicemember, once they are discharged, into treatment somewhere else — VA or a civilian treatment center, for example.
“While that administrative discharge is ongoing, these treatment and counseling services are still being offered,” Gould said. “We’re going to help you get to where you need to be. Our first priority is the safety and well-being of our servicemembers.”
Although the focus of the general public might be on the increased use of breathalyzers, Navy health officials said they believe the Navy — and the military in general—does not have a bigger problem than the civilian sector. They just track and address it better.
“We don’t have any larger a problem in the military, and it’s probably smaller than the rest of society. We’re a microcosm of the bigger picture,” explained Shoshona Pilip-Florea of Navy public affairs. “Because our mission is so critical and lives are at stake, we get out ahead of these issues before they become a problem. We nip them in the bud before there’s an alcohol incident. And our success rate [at treatment] is twice that of our civilian counterparts.”
Part of the reason for that success is that the military provides a much more regulated structure than anything in the civilian sector. Another is the sheer number of people around that are looking out for that servicemember, she said.
“Once you have an alcohol-related incident, or if you self-refer, at that point your command is aware of the issue,” Pilip-Florea said. “Your shipmates are looking out for you. And you’re aware of that. There’s an impact of everyone around you looking out for you. Outside the service, that isn’t necessarily the case.”
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