Investigation: Army substance-abuse program in disarray

The Army’s transfer of substance-abuse outpatient treatment from medical to non-medical leadership in 2010 has led to substandard care, the mass exodus of veteran personnel and the hiring of unqualified clinic directors and counselors, according to senior Army clinical staff members and records obtained by USA TODAY…

One tragic result: the Army estimates that since 2010, about 90 soldiers committed suicide within three months of receiving substance-abuse treatment. At least 31 suicides followed sub-standard care, according to tabulations by the clinical staff, although they did not specifically link the deaths to poor treatment.

In a 2012 case, Army managers hired an unlicensed counselor at Fort Sill in Oklahoma over the objections of senior clinical personnel. The counselor began seeing patients and gave a “good” rating to a soldier who hanged himself two hours later, according to an internal Army report provided to USA TODAY…

An Institute of Medicine panel of scientific experts on substance abuse warned in a 2012 report that the military faces a public health crisis in drug and alcohol abuse. Members of the panel, part of the National Academy of Sciences, said they were surprised by documents supplied by USA TODAY showing that treatment efforts have gotten worse…

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