ADAPT proactively educates Airmen, helps save lives

  • Published
  • By Airman Daniel Snider
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Military members constantly face changes in leadership, the potential to move or the possibility of deploying overseas. Since these situations can induce stress, some people may turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

In order to combat the temptation of substance abuse, the Alcohol Drug and Prevention Treatment program proactively educates Airmen to promote overall health and readiness.

“Our responsibility is to provide substance use-related preventative education to the base population,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Charnell Smith, 23d Medical Operations Squadron mental health flight commander and ADAPT program manager. “We [conduct] unit briefs so people can see who we are, and see us as people and not these medical [technicians] trying to take away their careers or whatever the myths about ADAPT are about.”

The ADAPT program’s goal is to proactively educate substance users and pull substance abusers away from their environment and get participants to start changing their ideas and views about their situation.

Smith mentioned that the majority of their referrals never get a profile, meaning that they never get taken down from their worldwide, qualified status. They’re still able to deploy, go TDY and permanently change stations. Less than two percent of military members actually lose their careers as a result of their substance use.

 “There’s some [misperceptions] because someone will [make a mistake] such as getting a driving under the influence charge, drunk and disorderly conduct, or underage drinking,” said Smith. “Afterwards, their command is supposed to refer them to us. So then they, in turn, [perceive] part of their punishment as coming to ADAPT.”

Command referral is just one of three referral routes and the only method directly involving one’s chain of command. There is also self-referral and a medical referral from a primary care manager. The program begins with an initial assessment of the individual.

“To really help, we’ve got to know about you,” said Smith. “We’re going to ask about family history, work history, social history and substance use history. It’s like telling your own autobiography to us so we can get to know you and assess you.

“We’re not just focusing on your [disorder], but focusing on you as a person. Then we have people make goals,” Smith added.

After evaluation, members receive education about responsible substance use and begin setting goals. The ADAPT program can last a few sessions to six months depending on the severity of their condition.

“Treatment is individualized to each person. If they need longer than six months we definitely wouldn’t say ‘hey, you reached your six-month mark, you’ve got to get out of here’,” said Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Lyman, 23d Medical Operations Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of the ADAPT program.

Once treatment begins, ADAPT personnel have an array of services to assist participants through their recovery.

“[The services we provide are] in-house treatments which include individual counseling, alcohol brief counseling and assisting members who use illicit substances such as cocaine, marijuana and the misuse of prescription drugs,” said Smith. “Some people might need a day-group [sessions], called partial-hospitalization. If they need to [visit] inpatient we send them to a residential treatment where they live for 28 days.”

Some individuals may show signs of substance abuse before their referral.

“You [may notice] them coming to work late,” said Smith. “Maybe [they’re] not as sharp at work as they [usually are] and that’s sometimes where it starts. Sometimes the family gets involved and starts to encourage them or [their] spouse starts [telling] them ‘hey I will leave unless you get help.’“

It may seem like a dark time, but the ADAPT program is available to help.

“[Often] people say ‘I’m sad I had to come here this way but I’m glad that you guys helped me,’” added Smith.

Lyman and Smith agree that ADAPT personnel think outside the box and look for new ways to educate and treat individuals. They enjoy seeing people win the battle against substance abuse.

“It’s hard to explain the satisfaction in knowing you helped an Airman during a difficult time in their life, to get through that difficult time and return them back to mission status and be that better [family member] or friend,” said Lyman.

For more information, Individuals can contact the ADAPT program at 229-257-3898