In the last year, more than 11 percent of people 12 and older in the Washington, D.C. are or were dependent on alcohol or drugs, greater than the national average of about 9 percent, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“Substance abuse is a very pervasive problem and it underlies a lot of other conditions, so we encourage providers to screen for alcohol and other substances,” said Dr. Barbara Marin, department chief of the addiction treatment services (ATS) at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). “That is something that is essential to catching a problem early enough to treat the problem.”
The ATS department combined programs from the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) and former National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) for treating substance-use disorders, Marin s
“We do treatment, but we also specialize in early intervention work,” she said. “We really encourage people to seek help or refer someone as early as possible because it can save someone’s life. It’s always easier to address a problem before it is too profound and it affects various areas of a person’s life aid.
Marin said with the help of the integration, her department has a full robust program with motivated, skilled workers that includes two counselors and six social workers.
“I head up the program on a daily basis to ensure a smooth clinical operation, a timely response to our community’s needs for evaluations, triages and consultations, and most importantly, I ensure the clinic meets the highest standards of excellence in everything we do. I make sure my staff is capable and their competencies are clear by giving them the support and tools necessary to do their jobs,” Marin said.
ATS is accessible through several outlets, Marin explained. Self-referral is an option and is encouraged. While walk-ins are accepted, patients can call to make an appointment for an evaluation. That would be the best way, if it’s not an emergency, she added.
“About 60 percent of the people we see are referred to us by other healthcare providers, either on the medical side or by the behavioral health department. There are other avenues, such as the emergency room,” she said.
Marin said while her department is known for their practices, they have even more to offer.
“We see referrals from the command that include all services through the drug testing program,” Marin said. “If a person tests positive on a drug test, they are then referred to us for an evaluation. Family advocacy has the potential to identify substance-related concerns through the context of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse or physical abuse,” she explained.
Regulatory and military instructional guidance also directs individuals to the ATS department and its services.
“We are an outpatient program, but if a person needs a higher level of care and residential treatment, we have a lot of very fine options through the TRICARE network to send people to residential treatment and they come back to us for their outpatient care,” Marin added.
“I love my job,” said Naval Aircrewmen (Mechanical) 1st Class Petty Officer Eddie Olsen, a counselor with the department. “It’s personally rewarding and I love helping people. I get to help people who need it and also collaborate with other counselors and people who like to help beat substance abuse.”
Olsen’s day-to-day duties involve the screening and intake of patients while determining their eligibility of treatment.
“I think it’s important for people with problems of substance abuse to feel that they are not alone,” Olsen said. “This department will help everyone and get them through it. We just take it step by step.”
For more information or to make an appointment for an evaluation, contact Marin or Olsen at (301) 400-1298.