By Andre Butler, Moncrief Army Community HospitalSeptember 6, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Soldiers at Fort Jackson no longer have to deal with the pain of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and addictions alone. Nor do they have to feel that seeking treatment for behavioral health concerns will negatively affect their military career.
Moncrief Army Community Hospital's Combat Stress and Addictions Recovery Program is dedicated to helping those suffering from PTSD and addictions.
"This program is one of the first I have seen of its kind that provides inpatient behavioral health care to combat veterans experiencing significant PTSD symptoms utilizing a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach," said Col. Mark Higdon, MACH commander. "Less than 5 percent of the patients require re-treatment in the future."
CSARP is a five-week treatment program. It consists of integrated care and cognitive processing therapy. After completing inpatient treatment, patients carry on treatment on the unit for two weeks for outpatient care, as well as continuing treatment with their outpatient providers, who are involved in their care while in the program.
"The program so impressed the (Maintain, Restore and Improve Health Award) selection committee that Moncrief was chosen to receive the first award from The Surgeon General. I am very proud of our team," Higdon said.
The overall goal of the CSARP is to simultaneously address post-deployment issues and unhealthy coping behaviors in a controlled, military environment with regular input from the chain of command, family members and staff familiar with the Soldier lifestyle.
"When people are experiencing emotional or addiction problems, it impacts every facet of their life," said Dr. Marc Cooper, chief of the Department of Behavioral Health. "If we only focus on certain aspects and ignore the rest, we are essentially setting them up to relapse. That is the reason CSARP is geared around comprehensive treatment."
Coping skills are emphasized during treatment.
"Service members come here to learn skills for how to cope in their community," said Maj. Norma Torres, head nurse of the program. "They sometimes need help with anxiety and anger issues so we engage them in group sessions with others to develop ideas of how to deal with what they are experiencing.
"These guys need a lot of education about their diagnosis, medications and treatment and that is part of what we do in this program," she said.
Getting to know the patient you are treating is another important aspect of the treatment plan.
"Every patient here is different, and this inpatient setting gives us the opportunity to learn more about the patient and what they are going through," Torres said. "After a few days or so, most of them open up and share their experiences with us.
"It is a team effort, and we nurses, the providers, as well as the other patients, form a unique bond," she said. "They begin to understand that this is a safe environment for them to share and heal."
Cooper explained that a Soldier who is stationed at Fort Jackson has a unique opportunity for receiving treatment.
"Fort Jackson is a Training and Doctrine Command post, therefore, we don't have units deploying all the time," Cooper said. "The operational tempo is different."
Cooper said that makes it easier for troops to enroll in and complete the entire program.
"Soldiers here are in the best possible position to seek treatment. They can finish the treatment with little or no distractions of having to report to their unit for whatever reason," Cooper said. "And the Fort Jackson leadership supports what we are doing for the service members."
Cooper also addressed the perception that the stigma of psychiatric treatment might end careers.
"Those needing help should seek it," Cooper said. "I've treated a lot of patients with concerns about what others would say about them asking for help with PTSD and addictions. What you perceive is not reality, and service members should not use this as an excuse not to seek treatment."