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US Army Center for Substance Abuse Programs: Money vs Health

US Army Center for Substance Abuse Programs: Money versus Soldier Treatment, Health

by John Stanton
March 16, 2012

The Army Center for Substance Abuse Programs (ACSAP/ASAP) is located under US Army G-1, Human Resources, Deputy Chief of Staff. It consists of two elements according to the G-1 website. “The ASAP is split into two major components: the clinical and non-clinical ASAP or Command ASAP. The Command ASAP works under the installation/garrison commander and is responsible for drug and alcohol prevention and training programs, urinalysis specimen collection, shipping and handling, risk reduction and all other non-clinical functions within the ASAP. The proponent for the Command ASAP is the Army Center for Substance Abuse Programs (ACSAP) which falls under the Human Resources Directorate of the G1. The clinical ASAP handles the treatment and rehabilitation of soldiers that are identified as having substance abuse problems. USA Medical Command has oversight responsibility for the clinical ASAP.

The Director of ASAP is Les McFarling. His greeting, and mission statement from the ASAP reads as follows: “ACSAP is responsible for providing guidance and leadership on all non-clinical alcohol and other drug policy issues; developing, establishing, administering, and evaluating non-clinical alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse prevention, education, and training programs; overseeing the Military, Drug Free Workplace and Department of Transportation biochemical (drug) testing programs; and for the oversight of local Army Substance Abuse Programs (ASAP) worldwide.”

The [function and] primary goal of the ACSAP website is to provide soldiers, commanders, ASAP personnel, Unit Prevention Leaders (UPL) and all other members of the Army community with an informative, user-friendly online environment. Those utilizing the site have access to a multitude of information on our Biochemical (drug) Testing Programs, Risk Reduction Program (RRP), Soldier Assistance Program (SAP), Employee Assistance Program (EAP), alcohol and drug abuse prevention training materials, as well as general information about our Agency.”

All Volunteer Army Killing Itself

As scores of US Amy/military personnel return to the US Homeland (after multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere) many are in desperate need of mental health treatment, supportive local communities, and the understanding and compassion of families and friends. They deserve no less. Moreover, the falsely held view of a dichotomy between mental and physical health held by the public and military at large often inhibits those in need of support from seeking help. As it is, suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cases are at staggering levels in the US Army. Tragic events such as the one that occurred in 2011 seem commonplace: “A 27-year-old Iraq War veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder killed his 11-year-old sister, before fatally turning a gun on himself… police feared he may have also killed or seriously wounded their mother.”

According to CBS News, “While suicide remains a relatively rare event, the results of this study [Injury Prevention: Mental health risk factors for suicides in the US Army, 2007–8] suggest it is increasing at an unprecedented rate and, unlike any other time in history, U.S. military suicide rates now appear to have surpassed those among comparable civilian populations.”

So in the midst of what is clearly a health disaster for the US Army, come allegations of fraud, waste and abuse in ACSAP/ASAP, one of the US Army’s flagship substance abuse programs. But before getting to those allegations, a clearer understanding of what ACSAP/ASAP does, and what its contractors produce, is in order.

PMCs on Human Capital

According to the ASAP website and other documentation, it is “a commander's program designed to monitor and improve the personnel readiness of the unit's soldiers. Your program must be designed for a garrison and a deployed environment. Just like you ensure combat readiness of vehicles and weapon systems by frequent, recurring preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCs) performed to standards, your substance abuse program helps to ensure the combat readiness of your most important combat system - your Soldiers. The ASAP is a PMCS of your Soldiers.”

The Preventive Research Institute (PRI) is the creator of the PRIME For Life (PFL) product. PRI is a nonprofit, tax exempt organization which reported, in its Form 990, revenue of $5.7 million (US). The head of PRI, Raymond Dougherty made just over $226K in 2010. His wife Terry Dougherty, co-founder of PRI received just over $96K in royalty payments in 2010. She receives annual royalties.

PFL is described as “a motivational intervention used in group settings to prevent alcohol and drug problems or provide early intervention. PFL has been used primarily among court-referred impaired driving offenders. It also has been adapted for use with military personnel, college students, middle and high school students, and parents. Different versions of the program, ranging from 4.5 to 20 hours in duration, and optional activities are available to guide use with various populations.”

PRI also produces ADAPT/myPRIME described on the ACSAP/ASAP site as “an on-line prevention intervention training tool that provides soldiers with the ability to self-assess their own high risk behaviors and influence changes in attitude, belief, and behavior. This training is a conversion to virtual (online) delivery of the current ADAPT curriculum (PRIME For Life) which is a classroom-based training taught by certified Prime For Life Instructors. ADAPT/myPRIME is intended for soldiers who present issues with alcohol and/or drugs while deployed. The training is delivered via computer that a soldier completes on an individual basis…”

ACSAP/ASAP contracts with Windwalker Corporation. Windwalker describes itself as “the recipient of multiple awards for high-quality, innovative and dynamic multimedia training products. Windwalker is also recognized as a Top 500 Diversity-owned Business and Top 500 Women-owned business.” The company has performed a variety of tasks not only for the ACSAP/ASAP effort but also for the Department of Veteran Affairs. There are a bevy of other contractors on the program to include Accenture, Highmark and Buoyant.

Allegations: Too Many Contractors, Not Enough Tasks=Easy Money

Allegations of fraud, waste, abuse and conflicts of interest within ACSAP/ASAP have surfaced. The first involves Lieutenant Colonel Sheila Seitz who is a noted speaker on substance abuse. She has spoken at numerous conferences on the matter of substance abuse and has been quoted in the media. At an ICF International session she was described as “Lieutenant Colonel Sheila Seitz is a United States Army Reserve Officer serving on active duty with the Army Center for Substance Abuse Programs as a project officer. She is responsible for the management of several prevention and training projects to include an updated version of the drug testing training for soldiers, the deployment of a virtual indicated prevention training product and the development of a new Universal Prevention product. She is a veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. She holds a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Cincinnati.”

According to her Linkedin entry, before joining ACSAP/ASPA as a program officer in March 2011, LTC Seitz was a program manager for Windwalker Corporation from 2008 to 2011. She was apparently brought on board by ACSAP/ASPA director Les McFarling to manage Windwalker, her former employer. LTC Seitz is alleged to be engaged in the promotion of Windwalker products produced for ACSAP/ASAP to other federal agencies/potential clients. It is claimed that because ACSAP/ASAP uses the PRI-Windwalker products they are automatically perceived as best-of-class. Thus, LTC Seitz has an easy sell to other organizations, it is claimed.

Prevention Research Institute (PRI) products are not adequately evidenced-based in the specific areas of strong choices and universal prevention. The reason, it is claimed, is that PRI has not conducted sufficient research to support the contents of the training material for ACSAP/ASAP. PRI products need to be replaced by more effective measurable educational resources, it is said. The products developed by PRI (and Windwalker) apparently have not been reviewed by the appropriate Department of Defense civilians within ASCAP/ASAP before being moving up the chain to US Army G-1 (see above) and approved for use at various installations/downrange.

A description of a portion of ACSAP/ASAP’s contracting process and contractor practices is alleged to be in conflict. An example follows: Say that PRI is considered a sole source contractor. In order to attend their Prime for Life training all participants have to pay $500 each plus $25 for the course manual. PRI and Windwalker Corporation allegedly bundled Prime for Life so that when training products are released to installations/downrange, all recipients have to take Prime for Life training first before they can advance into other training modules developed by PRI and Windwalker such as Universal Prevention. It is claimed that Windwalker Corporation/PRI and ACSAP/ASAP program director Les McFarling have a perilously close relationship. Further, it is alleged, the quality of the products received from the contractors is inadequate. Finally, it is claimed that ACSAP/ASAP has too many contractors spread over locations in Kentucky and Virginia that increase costs to the government.

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John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters.

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