ASAP staff supports Alcohol Awareness Month with virtual, in-person training, activities
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 30, 2021) -- In support of Alcohol Awareness Month, the Fort Drum Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) staff is offering the community several opportunities to learn more about alcohol abuse, dependency and other related issues throughout April.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely introduced some challenges in how we present campaign month activities,” said Bill Van Orman, ASAP educator. “We had to be more flexible in what we are doing to be more virtual, socially distanced and safe, but still engage people on the issues.”
The Alcohol Awareness Month campaign coincides with Child Abuse Prevention Month and Military Saves Month, and it will fall under the umbrella of Mountain Wellness Month at Fort Drum.
Soldiers and DoD civilians can attend Mountain Wellness Training from 9 to 11:30 a.m. April 16 at the Multipurpose Auditorium. Classes are provided by ASAP, Family Advocacy Program and Financial Readiness Program. To register, call (315) 772-2371.
A virtual session also will be conducted from 1 to 3:30 p.m. that day via Microsoft Teams.
ASAP will host NARCAN training from 10 a.m. to noon April 7 for Soldiers and DoD civilians to learn how to administer the medication used to reverse opioid overdose. This is an online course provided by the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). Each participant will receive a NARCAN kit at the ASAP office after completing the training.
To register, visit https://meetny.webex.com/meetny/k2/j.php?MTID=tc83f6c756860f1971ec8ce7f6c528a8d. For more information, call (315) 772-2371 or 772-6706.
“Those are the two big events we are providing, and it is my hope that a lot of people take advantage of this training, whether it is in person or virtually,” said Tammy Leeder, ASAP specialist.
Although the OASAS class focuses on a substance abuse issue other than alcohol, Leeder said it was appropriate to offer the course while it is available. A class was scheduled last year, but then the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with ASAP’s awareness campaign.
“We feel that the NARCAN training is good training to offer because, unfortunately, there is a need for it in this area because of opioid addiction,” Leeder said. “We all know it doesn’t discriminate – whether it be on a military installation or in the community – so we felt this was important training to bring to Fort Drum.”
Leeder said that she registered for the training because she wants to familiarize herself with a potentially life-saving procedure.
“I think it’s just good to be prepared and have it available,” she said.
Van Orman said that he received the training last year because of his interaction with people who struggle with addiction.
“Knowing that we meet with people who have dependency issues, I want to be trained and have (NARCAN) on hand just in case it were ever necessary,” he said.
For some attendees, these Mountain Wellness Month classes may fulfill annual 350-1 training requirements and it gives them a chance to complete all three in one day. Van Orman said mandatory training gets a bad reputation for being dull or repetitive, which presents a challenge for educators to dispel that belief.
“People hear ‘mandatory training’ and they just shut down,” he said. “I sat through 21 years of that in my Army career, so I understand that. But what we try to do is make the training more engaging. You have to make the issues real to your audience, get them involved so they can relate to the issues about alcohol.”
He said that having visual aids that involve interaction also ignites more discussion.
“(Incorporating) things like the drunk goggles really solidifies the training, but also makes it fun,” Van Orman said.
Community members also will see messages supporting Mountain Wellness Month campaigns on the digital mobile billboard, and static displays and informational material will be available at Child and Youth Services and during Baby Palooza on April 27 at the Family Resource Center.
“We’re going to be able to have some demonstrations so that there are interactive activities, as well as having the information table,” Leeder said. “We will have people wear the drunk goggles while trying to change a baby diaper or preparing a bottle.”
Additionally, Van Orman worked with a Substance Use Disorder Clinic Care (SUDCC) counselor on a series of public service announcements that will be posted on the ASAP Facebook page. These include:
- The increase in day drinking during the pandemic while people are in quarantine or working remotely
- Increase in binge-drinking
- Poor choices due to boredom
- How to get help (limited use policy)
Van Orman said that they often use the ASAP Facebook page to suggest alternatives for people who say they drink to stave off boredom. He counsels Soldiers to take advantage of activities through Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, enroll in online classes or find a new hobby.
“You came in the Army seeking opportunities – pursue those opportunities,” Van Orman said. “You may be a good Soldier, but you’re still stagnating, not pursuing anything. So, we get a lot Soldiers who say they drink because there’s nothing else to do, and that’s simply not true.”
He said that it was a particular concern during the winter months of the pandemic, when people tended to remain indoors more than they normally would.
“A lot of the Soldiers are not from around here, and they might not have hobbies that fit this environment during the winter,” he said. “People say they want things to do, but then they don’t want to go out and do them. I talk to them about that a lot.”
As a Prime for Life program instructor, Van Orman works with Soldiers who have been involved in a recent alcohol or drug incident. The Army-certified course satisfies court-ordered education requirements for individuals who had driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses. Soldiers also can enter the program through self-referral, command referral or SUDCC referral.
During this program, Van Orman said that he discusses values with Soldiers to find out what is most important in their lives and show how high-risk choices and poor decisions interfere with those values. The course also covers the pathway to drug or alcohol addiction and the symptoms of dependency.
“It really sets the stage for them to take the tools that we’ve given them and go back to their counselors for more one-on-one to take them to the next level,” he said.
“We have seen some success stories coming out of that program,” Van Orman added. “I have had Soldiers pull me aside in various places who said that it had helped them focus in on their values. Ideally, we would love to give the class to every new Soldier coming into the Army so they can learn about it before they make mistakes.”
He said that Soldiers often say their alcohol education amounted to either drinking in moderation or not drinking at all.
“They’ve been given advice on how to drink better, not wisely,” he said. “They’re told things like, ‘eat before you drink so you can drink more.’ That’s horrible advice. Or, ‘drink at home because it’s safer.’ Is it? These are some of the challenges we face every day to get Soldiers to think differently about alcohol and give them the tools to be resilient and to accomplish their mission.”
Van Orman said that ASAP specialists can provide specialized training sessions for 10th Mountain Division (LI) units upon request.
“We don’t have to do the same standard training that Soldiers have had before,” he said. “If commanders are seeing certain trends that we can tailor the training to, and make it really hit home, then we will definitely do that.”
For more information about the Fort Drum Army Substance Abuse Program and upcoming Alcohol Awareness Month events, visit https://www.facebook.com/FortDrumASAP/ or https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-human-resources/soldier-and-family-readiness-division-sfrd/SFRC.