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US Army Delays Counseling Program

A pilot program's high drop-out rate causes delay. But one in four soldiers has a drink problem.

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One in four soldiers abuses alcohol. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

03/14/12

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The US Army is still postponing rolling out its confidential counseling program for soldiers to all bases. Army research shows that one in four soldiers has a drink problem—and such problems have been linked to domestic abuse cases, sexual assaults and suicides. Back in 2009, the Army started a pilot program offering soldiers counseling for substance abuse issues. Now, because of the high drop-out rate, officials are unsure where the program can go from here. "Folks who have an investment in a career won't come within 100 yards of [Army counseling] because they're afraid it's going to damage their career," says Col. John Stasinos, addiction consultant to the Army Surgeon General. The first confidential counseling installations were set up in 2009 in Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington, and the program expanded to Colorado, Kansas and Missouri in 2010. Last year the expansion of the program to all 60 army bases was postponed due to a 70% drop-out rate. The Army hopes to get that rate down 30% before expanding the program to all bases. But H. Westley Clark, head of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, believes that waiting for a 30% dropout rate is unrealistic, while delaying this program could lead to greater problems down the road, "You don't want to wait until someone is totally dysfunctional…becoming very depressed or suicidal," he says.“Even a limited amount of counseling can be beneficial.”

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