Members of the U.S. military have not been getting the alcohol abuse assessments and counseling that they should have in a timely fashion, according to a new report from Military Times.
The publication said screenings are not being done and referrals are lacking.
And even when those referrals are made, the Defense Department IG said in a report, the care still isn’t being provided.
“Some commanders thought the requirements for getting a service member into treatment were unclear; some treatment centers were understaffed or didn’t have enough spots; and some commanders put off getting their troops into treatment because of ‘operational requirements, legal actions, or other reasons,'” the report said.
Megan Reed, an official with the DoD’s inspector general’s office, said, “According to the medical records we reviewed and unit leadership we interviewed, leadership encouraged service members to self refer instead of submitting a command referral following an alcohol related incident or suspected alcohol misuse.”
She continued, “Personnel from a substance abuse center stated that there is stigma associated with the overall substance abuse program and there is a belief that service members will be more motivated to change and receive treatment if they self refer before a command or medical referral forces them to seek help.”
The problem is, she said, military members do not always choose to go to a substance abuse center.
And the report said of 270 personnel who were assigned to alcohol treatment, 104 didn’t get an intake assessment inside of the required timeline and nearly 100 didn’t get treatment inside of the requirement limits.
Three got no treatment at all.
Those screenings are supposed to happen for service members once a year, but 78% of the troops audited didn’t get that on time.
An issue, the report explained, is, “On top of that, there’s no central tracking mechanism to make sure every service member is receiving the screening on time. That is the IG’s first recommendation following the report.”
“Furthermore, we recommend that the [Defense Health Agency] Director, in coordination with the Military Services, review the civilian hiring and retention practices for substance abuse personnel and make applicable improvements to minimize vacant positions; establish a maximum number of days between a substance abuse referral and an intake assessment for a substance use disorder; and establish the maximum number of days to provide substance abuse treatment following a diagnosis of a substance use disorder,” the report said.
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