More Marines may get alcohol-abuse treatment



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With orders from the top, the Marine Corps’ inspector general is canvassing the service to see how well commands are enforcing rules on alcohol use among Marines.

As a result, more Marines who get in trouble for booze-induced infractions could wind up in alcohol-abuse treatment.

The survey was prompted by the discovery that many Marines caught driving under the influence are not being screened by substance abuse control officers.

Assistant Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford ordered the assessment and tasked the Inspector General’s Office and Manpower and Reserve Affairs with looking for other discrepancies regarding alcohol-abuse policies. Dunford issued the order as chairman of the 24th Force Preservation Board, a group representing several major commands that addresses safety issues.

Dunford was surprised to find that not every Marine charged with DUI was screened for substance abuse counseling, said Col. Adele Hodges, director of readiness assessments in the inspector general’s office in Washington.

“We may have Marines who are in trouble out there, and unless they are professionally screened to determine whether they need treatment or not, we have a gap in that determination,” Hodges said.

Among enlisted Marines, 702 of the 1,245 DUIs reported during fiscal 2010 led to screenings. Of those, 489 were sent to treatment, according to Naval Criminal Investigative Service data. In the officer ranks, 14 of 25 DUI cases were screened, and 11 Marines entered treatment. Data for 2009 showed similar gaps for all Marines.

It’s up to the unit commander to order a screening after a Marine is interviewed by a substance abuse control officer. Both commanders and SACOs were questioned in the survey, expected to end July 25.

The IG team hopes to determine why Marines aren’t being screened. Is it a funding issue? Are commanders unaware the program exists? When screening occurs, the IG team hopes to learn why some Marines fail to complete treatment.

The IG team will brief Dunford on the findings this fall, Hodges said, and a final report is expected in November.

Commands conducted 5,433 alcohol-related screenings during fiscal 2010, a slight increase from the 5,372 screenings done in 2009, according to Manpower data.

Of those 2010 screenings, about 40 percent, or 2,164, received “early intervention,” which includes a one-on-one session or classroom instruction. Slightly fewer Marines — 1,936 — were sent to scheduled education and counseling sessions in outpatient treatment. About 12 percent, or 609, were sent to more intensive residential treatment programs — a jump from 329 the previous year.

The screening rules are spelled out in greater detail in the Marine Corps’ substance abuse program policy, found in Marine Corps Order 5300.17.

That policy, updated April 11, combines several older orders and includes various changes and clarifications, including post-DUI screenings.

By Gidget Fuentes Marine Corps Times

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