May 27, 2020

Investigation finds army substance abuse program ‘in disarray’

An investigation by USA Today has found that the Army’s substance abuse program is failing the people it is meant to help, resulting in countless missed opportunities for recovery and up to two dozen suicides.

The report hinged on an interview with Wanda Kuehr, a psychologist who agreed to speak out about the problems after retiring Feb. 2 as the program's director of clinical services.

Non-medical managers want to “get the reports in on time and fill the slots,” Kuehr told USA Today. “They think that makes a good program. Our goal is to give treatment to soldiers. And (the bosses) see that as inconsequential … What's happening to soldiers matters and the Army can't just keep pushing things under the rug.”

Since 2010, about 90 Army soldiers have committed suicide within three months of seeking substance abuse treatment, the report found. Last year, 7,000 soldiers who sought help were turned away from the program.

“I thought that we had made an impact, that we had helped fix it, that the (Department of Defense) was perhaps embarrassed by what we had found,” said Thomas Kosten, a research scientist with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. “This kind of suggests that they had a little backpedaling since that time.”

To read the full report, visit USA Today.



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