Confidential counseling helps service members, families

16 Sep 2005 | Lance Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill

Combat Center Marines, sailors and their spouses may seek help with substance abuse problems anonymously through a weekly open-door counseling program here Monday nights.

The program, headed by David Roman, the base drug demand reduction coordinator, helps service members and family members alike gain knowledge as well as identify a problem and address methods of treatment. It also provides an open forum for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to find help.

"What I do is I help Marines and sailors for crisis counseling of alcohol and drug abuse aboard the base on a confidential basis," said Roman. "Drug use I have to report, however, but alcohol is completely confidential."

Beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Monday evenings, Roman hosts an informative class to educate Combat Center staff and officers on substance abuse prevention.

"What my staff and officer class entails is that I show them a brief of programs that are available to them to help their Marines," said Roman, who retired from the Marine Corps in 1989. "I also educate them on how to identify indicators and symptoms in their Marines."

The next portion of the evening is dedicated to the open-door counseling from 5 to 7 p.m. "The rest of the night is the crisis counseling," said Roman. "What that means is any Marine, sailor or (family members) who wants to may come in and talk about their alcohol problems, if they think they or a loved one might have one."

Roman said many of the people he sees are combat veterans. "I get Marines in here all the time who have been to Iraq two or three times," said the former drill instructor. "One of the problems is they may be experiencing some mildly abusive post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and be medicating it with alcohol, whether they realize it or not."

Roman, who is certified in four areas of drug and alcohol counseling, and his small staff of volunteers do everything to help stop a problem before it gets out of hand, he said. "The whole purpose of that is to get them to see the signs they might be exhibiting," said Roman.

"They don't want to get a DUI, they don't want to ruin their career, and they don't want to hit their spouse. Spousal abuse is on the rise since the war began, and it's no secret; but alcohol makes it so much worse," Roman said.

"But what happens then is that if I find out that they have a problem, what I do is I try to meet them halfway and help them and if they are willing, refer them to substance abuse counseling only if they approve," Roman said. "And so far, I haven't had one say 'No.'"

The program, which began in early February, goes hand-in-hand with Roman's power weightlifting team he began around the same time. The goal is to provide a welcoming atmosphere and provide Marines with an alternative to drinking.

"This program initiated early this year when we started to see a high increase in DUIs and the command became concerned," said Roman. "They wanted to do something different. Out of that came two different programs - a power lifting team and the open-door counseling services."

"Since we started this in February, I've had between four and six people every Monday night as walk-ins," said Roman. "I personally see an average of 16-18 per month for drug and alcohol abuse help here. Out of those, I'd say roughly seven are recommended for an intensive outpatient program residential treatment - all without having an incident. And that is the key: identifying the problem and preventing it from escalating."

For those who take the initiative and enroll themselves in a treatment program, the results speak for themselves. "Marines come through the treatment programs to me often and say they benefited so much by going through this program with Mr. Roman and getting the help they needed," said Staff Sgt. James E. Simon, Headquarters Battalion substance abuse control officer.

"The truth is that I don't have all of the answers, nor does Mr. Roman, but he is there to help," said Simon. "He is there for the Marines, and he has big heart. He does this on his own accord because he cares."

Roman said his rules for walk-ins are simple."There is no paperwork," he said. "We fill out nothing. All you have to do is walk in, and I prefer that they are not in uniform and it's all first-name basis."

The counseling services are held at Roman's offices in building 1438. For more information, call 830-7501.

Headquarters Marine Corps