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For years the Army Substance Abuse Program has been an installation asset and separate entity in treating Soldiers who are dealing with alcoholism and substance abuse issues. On Oct. 1, the program underwent changes to better align it with the Army Medical Command to provide a clinical approach in its treatment procedures.
ASAP, which was formally a part of the U.S. Army Installation Command-Fort Benning, is now included in Martin Army Community Hospital's Behavioral Health operations, which also includes the Family Advocacy Program, Outpatient Behavioral Health Services (Multi-D), Child and Family Behavioral Health Services, Intensive Outpatient Services, and Embedded Behavioral Health, to name a few of its subordinate services.
According to Maj. Todd Bell, MACH's chief of Behavioral Health, the process began long before Oct. 1, when it became effective.
"ASAP realigned from IMCOM, back to MEDCOM," Bell said. "There was a realization in the past year or two that in order to more efficiently provide services, and to better coordinate those services with the delivery of healthcare services, that ASAP could come back under MEDCOM."
Bell said that although the changes should appear transparent to Soldiers and their Family members, the real changes will take place behind the scenes.
He explained that the realignment is a switch from having a large, administrative program managed by one major command (IMCOM) and having many of the same patients being treated for a variety of problems by another major command (MEDCOM), which proved to be somewhat less efficient than the Army desired.
According to a report published on the Army's website, www.army.mil, Integrating Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care (SUDCC) treatment into MEDCOM's Behavioral Health System of Care (BHSOC) will enhance the delivery of care for Soldiers to improve the Readiness for the Force. It will also improve outcomes for Soldiers and family members with substance use disorders through earlier detection and intervention.
"The real benefit is just closing the gap between substance abuse clinical care and the rest of the healthcare that the average Soldier receives," he said.
He also pointed out that any behavioral or mental issues that the Soldier may face, in addition to the substance abuse problem can now be addressed at a centralized location.
"Coordination of care is going to be the greatest asset to this," explained Lt. Cmdr. Amy Cason, MACH's Behavioral Health deputy chief. "That's what we're looking for, being able to better utilize our substance abuse counselors. I'm looking forward to moving forward and not having a barrier between two different programs."
Cason said the counselors will not be incorporated into the behavioral health service lines.
"So, instead of having ASAP in an entity all by itself, from a clinical sense, these individual substance abuse counselors will be incorporated into present clinical services. For example, some will be in our Embedded Behavioral Health Program and some will be in our Multi-D program. They will become part of those teams, instead of the older way of being separated," she explained.
Bell added that what really makes the move interesting is that MEDCOM could've transferred ASAP clinical into its own entity as it has been in past years. Instead, Army medical leaders chose to embed or integrate the substance abuse counselors into its existing service lines.
"The really wanted to make sure that Soldiers who are being given substance abuse care are also being able to receive a variety of other services. This largely in line with MEDCOM's move toward a patient-centered, Medical Home model, where the patient becomes the center of care and the providers wrap around the patient to provide comprehensive care.
"That happens much more efficiently and effectively when the providers are functioning as a team other than siloed services, where you have to go one place to get one thing and another to receive a different service," Bell said.