Returning soldiers with brain injuries and other disabilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and mental health problems are at risk while they are in treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals. At the Army hospitals serving our injured military personnel there have been 15 deaths of soldiers due to drug overdoses in recent months. The Army, through it's Surgeon General, Lt. General Eric Schoonmaker, is looking into the deaths as is a Congressional panel. It appears that many of the soldiers who have overdosed have been prescribed multiple medications with often limited communication between physicians and a lack of case management and coordination of care. In some cases, the soldiers had consumed alcohol which may have exacerbated the effects of the prescribed medications. There is also the unanswered issue of suicide which is known to be prevalent as a risk for traumatic brain injury and PTSD. The soldiers housed in Warrior Transition Units are a group at risk due to the low supervision and oversight of their care.
The problem underscores the need for integrated care and comprehensive case management. The Army must consider what services are needed by people with brain injuries, physical disabilities and mental health problems which affect their cognitive abilities and capacities to live independently. Currently the Army has banned alcohol in these Warrior Transition Units, but still has not provided the level of supervision that many of these individuals need to maintain safety and well being. Investigations and inquiries are important, but we do know the solution to the problem. Simply banning alcohol in a residence will not prevent soldiers from drinking there or in the community. The returning soldiers need program services and case management which are designed to meet their needs. We have those programs in the civilian world. Why wait for more overdoses and deaths?