Substance use disorders now treated at Kimbrough

Richard Sechrest, supervisory clinical psychologist of the Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care division, chats with Patrice Miller, a substance abuse counselor. (Photo by Lisa R. Rhodes)

Department of the Army mental health professionals who provide treatment for substance use disorders now work as part of Fort Meade’s Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care.

Located at 2473 Llewellyn Ave, the clinic was given its own name in October. SUDCC is a specialty area within the Multi-Disciplinary Behavioral Health Clinic at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center.

Previously, the treatment and prevention of substance use disorders were coordinated within Fort Meade’s Army Substance Abuse Program. Now, only substance use prevention efforts are directed by the Army Substance Abuse Program at 2466 Medical Battalion Ave.

The changes were made by the Department of the Army. Services remain in compliance with Army Regulation 600-85.

Richard Sechrest, chief of the Multi-Disciplinary Behavioral Health Clinic, is the administrative liaison for SUDCC. He is also the clinic’s supervisory clinical psychologist, responsible for supervising its five substance abuse counselors, one social service assistant and the administrative assistant, as well as others in the Behavioral Health Clinic.

SUDCC serves active-duty service members who are assessed and treated for substance use disorders, ranging from problems with alcohol to prescription medications.

Patrice Miller, a substance abuse counselor at SUDCC, said service members can receive treatment by referring themselves as a walk-in or by a referral from their unit’s commander.

Commanders usually refer service members when results on a mandatory drug test are positive or they have been involved in an incident related to substance use.

Poor work performance and an inability to meet the Army’s mission is also a reason for a referral if the commander believes substance use is a contributor.

Physicians at Kimbrough or the Walter Reed National Medical Center can also make a referral.

Miller said regardless of how service members are referred, their commander is kept abreast of the treatment process from beginning to end.

Once clients are referred, they are evaluated to discern the type of substance use disorder that is involved and whether it meets the criteria for a medical diagnosis. The evaluation also determines what kind of treatment is best.

The evaluation consists of a clinical interview with a substance abuse counselor and includes screening questions and assessment tools. Laboratory blood work is also completed as part of the evaluation.

After the evaluation is completed, a rehabilitation team meeting is held for the service member and the commander.

The counselor informs the parties of the results of the evaluation and makes recommendations for a treatment plan.

If the substance use disorder does not meet the requirements for a diagnosis of a substance use disorder, the service member is enrolled in a two-day Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Treatment workshop conducted by the Army Substance Abuse Program.

Clients also can be recommended for individual or group counseling at the clinic or medication treatment through Kimbrough.

Of the service members currently in treatment, 85 percent are being treated for problems with alcohol. Treatment can take a minimum of 30 days or an average of 90 days.

Clients and their commanders are given a progress report every 90 days. Clients requiring in-patient treatment or hospitalization are usually treated for a year.

Sechrest said it is critical for service members to seek help if they suspect they are having issues with substance use, particularly because it may be connected to a mental health disorder.

A connection between substance abuse and mental health issues is often present, he said.

“We want to reduce that issue and help the clients who are working to build a healthy life,” Sechrest said.

Miller said that at times, some people do not know how to cope with the stresses of life and may turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping strategy. This can lead to problems in every aspect of the person’s life.

“There are a lot of negative effects from substance use, particularly on a person’s health,” Miller said.

Excessive alcohol use can damage the liver, and excessive drug use affects almost every system in the body.

Professional treatment can help service members in need, Sechrest said.

“Serving in the military is a tough job,” he said. “We want to help service members do their job effectively to the best of their capacity.”

Editor’s note: The Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care is open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 301-677-8149.

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