Army to hire 130 substance abuse counselors

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – After a decade at war, the army needs more substance abuse counselors.  Officials announced Wednesday they'd be hiring more than one hundred new staffers to help stressed soldiers.

The facilities that take care of our military men and women right here in Central Virginia have noticed an increased need for their services. Around the country in the last five years alone, the army said the number of troops abusing alcohol has almost doubled.

U.S. troops have been through ten years of consistent deployments.  They spend 18 months risking their lives in a foreign country, come home, only to possibly go back again 18 months later.  It is a roller coaster of emotions, the consequences of which Dr. William Sauve treats everyday at Poplar Springs Hospital, not far from Fort Lee.

"Depending on your circumstances while on deployment and in combat you have stressful experiences, traumatic experiences, then coming home and trying to adjust back to life in America can be very jarring," he explained.

Sauve said what they're seeing at Poplar Springs is very much in line with what the Department of Defense is doing.  Just last year nationwide, 13,000 U.S. troops were treated for substance abuse.

Dr. Sauve told NBC12 alcohol can help soldiers sleep when they return home, especially because they don't always have the bad dreams associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder if they drink themselves to sleep.  The negative consequences of booze are usually delayed, so it is a tempting crutch.

Access to care is an issue everywhere.  The 130 new jobs posted this week should counter that.  The influx will increase the army's staff of substance abuse counselors by about thirty percent, in the hopes of helping those fighting for our country deal with a stressful cycle.

"The only thing harder than doing something hard once is doing it three times," Sauve said.

Currently, the army has about 400 counselors.  Poplar Springs Hospital is working with the military on an expansion project so it can handle more beds.

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