Kentucky Soldiers receive drug/alcohol abuse training

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Story and photos by Sgt. Dale Elliott/75th Troop Command Unit Public Affairs/Historian Representative

AVON, Ky.(July 8, 2010)– Fifteen Kentucky National Guardsmen received training on how to help their fellow Soldiers deal with drug and alcohol abuse at Bluegrass Station  June 19.   

The training is the first of several Unit Prevention Specialist (UPS) Courses that will help Kentucky leaders identify Soldiers who may be dealing with drug or alcohol abuse or those who may be considering suicide. 

Maj. Donald Corder, the Joint Substance Abuse Coordinator for the Kentucky National Guard, said the training, which is in the infancy stages, has a lot of potential for a positive effect on the Kentucky Guard.

“I have hopes that the Soldiers who have received the UPS training will help make the Kentucky Guard drug free,” he said.

“By helping our unit leadership identify those Soldiers who many need help, it shows that the Kentucky Guard cares about all of our Soldiers and Airmen,” he said.

In 2009, there were 8,174 soldiers tested for drug abuse with 307 testing positive. So far, 2010 has had 5,176 people tested and 169 tested positive. Though the numbers are going down, the coordinators of the Unit Prevention Specialist Program said it’s still 169 too many.

Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, the adjutant general for Kentucky, issued an effective policy that ends the career of guard members who fail the urinalysis test.

This is not a new policy, however. The Air Guard has operated this policy for several years and has seen a dramatic reduction in positive urinalysis results. Last year only one Airman failed the mandatory drug screening.

Hopes are that the Army Guard will see similar results, Cordor said.  

“We want to have Soldiers who are having problems refer themselves into the prevention treatment program” said Corder. “By self referring, Soldiers are using the only avenue to get help and possibly save their career.”

If Soldiers seek help before testing positive, the Limited Use Policy may protect them from any adverse action. These self referrals are protected under AR600-85 and AFI 44- 121.

Air Force Master Sgt. Leah Williams, state prevention coordinator, has spent three years trying to spread the word about her program and what she can offer Soldiers and Airmen. She has seen success and hopes other Guardsmen will seek help on their own before testing positive.  

“If they fail a drug test or get caught in legal issues with civilian authorities, this takes it out of our ability to help,” Williams said.

Besides drug abuse, the UPS is there to help those dealing with suicidal thoughts.  Statistics show that those dealing with drug or alcohol abuse issues are more likely to think about or attempt suicide. It was a logical choice to add this to the duties of the UPS.

Suicide is the third leading causes of death for males 15 – 24 in the US. A large number of guard members have served in combat environments and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a large factor in drug and alcohol abuse as well as suicide attempts. Soldiers helping Soldiers is a key factor in solving these problems.

If you or a Soldier you know is having problems with drugs, alcohol or thoughts of suicide, be a battle buddy and get help.

  For more information contact Master Sgt. Leah Williams at (859) 293-3900 or leah.l.williams@us.army.mil or http://www.militaryonesource.com.

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