Substance abuse program consolidates
June 16, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- For the first time in more than a decade, all the components of the Army Substance Abuse Program will be located together starting next week. The program’s clinical section, which is responsible for offering treatment, was previously located at Moncrief Army Community Hospital, while the preventive program was located on Sumter Road. ASAP’s new offices will be at 9810 Lee Road.
“With the prevention side (and the clinical side) working together, we can provide better services to the Soldiers,” said Brenda Watley, ASAP clinical program manager. “Because what we’re trying to move to is ... to initiate programs like stress management and other preventive measures. That’s a big help in itself. And, working more closely with the drug testing coordinator to know what kind of drugs people come up positive for and the areas we need to be focusing on.”
The goal, said Watley, is to work with patients before any problems get out of hand and to treat patients more effectively.
ASAP has a wide range of responsibilities, which include drug testing, risk reduction, education, treatment for substance abuse issues, suicide prevention and violence in the workplace, said Ernestine Richardson, ASAP manager. The program’s services are available to all members of the military community.
“We look at all of the components " the retiree, the family member, the Soldier and the civilian community and try to help command reduce substance abuse, reduce the stigma against ... seeking help,” Richardson said.
The clinical staff includes 20 counselors, and Richardson said she hopes to be able to increase staffing for the preventive programs soon.
“(What) we’re trying to do is lean more toward preventing or intervening early, so that we don’t have to treat as much,” Richardson said. “Because what we’d like to do is get the word out and let you know there are some other things you can do before (substance abuse) becomes a problem.”
Watley said people with substance abuse problems are often reluctant to seek help. She said it is important to explain the benefits of treatment, especially to Soldiers.
“We’re still working on (decreasing) the stigma that a lot of times is associated with Soldiers when they want to get help for any type of behavioral health problem, whether that be (post traumatic stress disorder), depression (or) substance abuse issues,” Watley said.
In addition to helping people who have substance abuse issues, ASAP also offers a group for their spouses.
“It specifically deals with co-dependent issues and letting the individual spouses know what type of behavior to expect from a person who’s abusing and the things that the spouses can do to take care of themselves,” Watley said.
Richardson said she encourages family members of substance abusers to seek help, even if the abuser is not yet willing to seek treatment.
“You may not be using, but you’re having issues "maybe depression, maybe stress, maybe a whole lot of things " as a result of that person’s use,” she said. “So, if you start, he or she might be willing to come and help and get involved and it will lead to something else down the road.”
The program is also planning to start an intensive treatment group later this year for people who have undergone inpatient treatment for substance abuse.
Watley said that the intensive training is a departure from having patients meet in group or individual sessions that may meet only weekly.
“Once they come out ... we want to do some intense treatment during which they would come in for four days a week, three hours,” Watley said. “This gives them a longer period of time in treatment, during which we can reinforce what they have learned in the inpatient setting.”
Treatment hours will be reduced gradually depending on the patient’s treatment plan.
Richardson said her hope is that in the long run ASAP can change people’s attitudes about substance abuse.
“I think that if we can make a dent or help people view life, and substance abuse in particular, a little bit differently, it would really help,” she said.
To contact ASAP, call 751-6597 (clinical program) or 751-5007. Walk-ins are welcome. Soldiers also have the option of going through their chain of command to seek help.