Army Aims to Combat Substance Abuse

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The Army's No. 2 officer says his branch of the military needs twice as many substance-abuse counselors to treat the rising number of soldiers needing help.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, wants about 300 more counselors to meet the increasing demand for substance-abuse treatment, he told USA Today.

"There's no doubt in my mind that since 2001 and being involved in two wars ... that we probably have a higher incidence of alcohol abuse," Chiarelli told the newspaper.

Alcohol consists of 85 percent of the Army's caseload for substance-abuse treatment, Les McFarling, director of the Army Substance Abuse Program, told the newspaper.

Army records released Monday show that 9,199 soldiers sought treatment in 2009 after being diagnosed with alcohol problems, the newspaper reports. That number was a 56 percent increase from 2003, when the Iraq war began, the paper reports. Overall, 16,388 soldiers enrolled in some type of counseling, the paper reports.

"We need the nation's help," Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Horne, chief of Army human resources and policy, told the newspaper about the need for more counselors.

The service has 20 percent fewer counselors than its full roster of 290, McFarling told the newspaper.

If the Army reaches its goal in recruiting 300 more counselors - and filling the vacancies from its current roster - it would have one counselor for every 1,600 soldiers instead of one for every 2,000, he said. The officials did not provide the newspaper with an estimate for how much the additional counselors would cost the service.
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