Program provides Airmen with tools to overcome alcohol, drug dependence

  • Published
  • By Airman Ashley J. Woolridge
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
In moderation, alcohol can be an enjoyable part of adult social activities. However, when used incorrectly, alcohol consumption can quickly spiral out of control.

Airmen who find themselves in a tailspin due to an alcohol or drug dependency problem have a lifeline in the 28th Medical Operations Squadron's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program.

"The ADAPT program is designed to train people to deal with issues that may become problematic and lead to substance abuse issues," said Capt. Neal Kennington, 28th MDOS ADAPT program manager. "We want to help people take care of problems before there's a negative impact on their career or family life."

Staff Sgt. David VanHoose, 28th MDOS ADAPT NCO in charge, said the treatment process follows an established pattern.

"We do a one-on-one interview to get an initial assessment that allows us to gather basic information about their alcohol usage and how it affects them," VanHoose said. "Then, they complete the Substance Usage Assessment Tool test on the computer that delves further into their drinking habits and social background. We put the two together and come up with a diagnosis and treatment goes on from there."

Treatment through ADAPT is individualized and varies on a case-by-case basis, ranging from counseling and alcohol education, to a 28-day inpatient program in a local hospital and months of follow-up care.

VanHoose said Airmen dealing with an alcohol or drug issue can be directed to enroll in ADAPT by their commander or first sergeant, but they can also check in of their own volition. "There are certain stipulations to a self-enrollment," VanHoose said. "They can't be pending a urinalysis or any administrative action due to their substance usage."

Kennington said patients who enroll themselves in the program are in the minority, but oftentimes have a better success rate.

"People who are command-directed to come in and aren't open to it tend not to be open and receptive to the treatment," Kennington said. "Unfortunately, we usually see those people several times, because they continue to have problems. However, people with the most serious problems are those who are most open to the treatment, and want to turn their lives around."

Kennington said Airmen should not be afraid to check into the program.

"If anybody has problems as a result of drinking, coming to ADAPT can only help," Kennington said. "It's not a punishment process - you're not going to get in trouble for coming to us. Commanders love it when people come to ADAPT voluntarily and want to get help. Commanders thank their people for coming before there's a DUI (driving under the influence) or an arrest, and they have to deal with the fallout from that. I've seen it over and over again."

Although the program is mainly for active-duty Airmen, family members and civilian employees can also receive counseling. "We can do an initial assessment of civilians and GS (general schedule) employees," VanHoose explained.

Kennington, who is a clinical psychologist by trade, said the ADAPT staff works to keep Ellsworth Airmen in world-class shape.

"Alcohol and other substances have a huge impact on the well-being and readiness of active-duty Airmen," Kennington said. "If you have substance abuse or dependence problems, you're guaranteed to have some sort of problem in your personal life. That bleeds into work, and then we as a service aren't ready. We're here to make sure people are fit to fight."

In addition to the treatment they offer patients, the ADAPT staff also works hard to educate base personnel about the effects of alcohol and drug abuse through briefings during Right Start, the First Term Airmen Course and NCO Professional Enhancement.

Kennington and VanHoose added that they find helping people overcome their alcohol or substance abuse issues rewarding.

"I've seen families saved," Kennington said. "I've seen careers salvaged. It's fantastic to be a part of that."

VanHoose added that he thinks it's awesome getting to see somebody make huge changes in their life.

"Sometimes, you see people come in who have hit rock bottom," he said. "To help bring them up out of that is pretty amazing."

Airmen who are experiencing issues related to drugs or alcohol can find out more information, or enroll in ADAPT, by calling the 28th MDOS Mental Health Clinic at (605) 385-3656.