Thousands of soldiers are turned away by Army substance abuse clinics each year, according to an investigation by USA Today.
An estimated 20,000 soldiers seek help each year at Army substance abuse clinics, the article notes. In 2010, the Army transferred substance abuse outpatient treatment from medical to non-medical leadership. The change has led to substandard care, the investigation concludes. Many experienced staff people have left, and unqualified clinic directors and counselors have taken their place, according to the newspaper.
Since 2010, about 90 soldiers committed suicide within three months of receiving substance abuse treatment, USA Today says.
The Army denies its substance abuse treatment has suffered from the change in leadership.
The investigation was based on a review of Army files, emails and reports, as well as interviews with program personnel. It found as many as half of the 7,000 soldiers turned away last year after being screened for potential drug or alcohol problems should have received treatment. An Army assessment found half of its 54 substance abuse clinics fall below professional standards for treating drug and alcohol abuse. Only a small number are in full compliance.
Since 2009, the number of soldiers seeking treatment declined 13 percent. During that same period, the number of counseling positions decreased 38 percent. An estimated 352 counseling positions are needed, but only 309 are filled, leading to waiting lists for care at some clinics, the investigation found.
In 2012, the Institute of Medicine released a report that concluded substance abuse among members of the U.S. military and their families has become a public health crisis.
The Defense Department's approaches to preventing and treating substance abuse are outdated, the report stated.
The report, which was requested by the Defense Department, found about 20 percent of active duty service members say they engaged in heavy drinking in 2008, the latest year for which data is available. Binge drinking increased from 35 percent in 1998 to 47 percent a decade later.