March 11, 2010

JSAP training prepares Soldiers to be Unit Prevention Leaders

From Staff Reports

SANDSTON, Va. — More than two dozen Virginia National Guard Soldiers from throughout the state attended the Unit Prevention Leader Training Feb. 26 in Sandston, Va. The 27 Soldiers came from eight different units for the training, hosted by the Virginia National Guard Joint Substance Abuse Program.


Students in the Unit Prevention Leader course run by the Joint Substance Abuse Program undergo rigorous hands-on training on the process for collecting and recording samples for drug testing. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Guard Counter Drug Program)

“The JSAP program is responsible for substance abuse testing of all Soldiers and Airmen in the Virginia National Guard,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Tony Linton, the JSAP coordinator. Linton pointed out that this amounted to more than 8,536 samples collected and tested last year.

“Given the volume of testing required, we have a decentralized system where units collect their own samples based upon lists provided by my office,” he said.

“The unit prevention leaders are key to us meeting our testing goals given the amount of work there is to be done,” said Staff Sgt. James Long, assistant JSAP coordinator. “We are responsible for training enough unit prevention leaders to support all units, be they stateside or deployed.”

“Substance abuse is a drain on manpower, funding, organizational energy, morale, safety, and in the final analysis-combat power,” explained Maj. Charlton Dunn, the Virginia National Guard Counter-Drug coordinator, who manages the JSAP program. “While Hollywood will never make a movie about the JSAP program, the JSAP program plays a vital role in maintaining combat power in three ways-  identifying service members with problems who we can treat and retain, identifying service members with problems that need to be removed from service, and acting as a deterrent to substance abuse.”

Linton explained the process involved in what is commonly referred to as drug testing. 

“Units coordinate with my office for quarterly or monthly testing,” he said. “We generate testing rosters and provide testing supplies just prior to testing. After the unit collects the samples, they are delivered to the JSAP office in Sandston, where we conduct quality control to ensure samples are properly packaged and documented.

“They are then sent to a laboratory in Texas where they are tested for six different drug types,” he explained. “Results are received from the lab and we generate Positive Urinalysis Result packets for those testing positive, which are then sent to the major command and unit for action. This process from collection to notification of a positive result can be as fast as two weeks.”
Long explained the process for positive results for prescription drugs.  “


Sgt. 1st Class Tony Linton, the Virginia National Guard Joint Substance Abuse Program coordinator, and his assistant Staff Sgt. James Long conduct Unit Prevention Leader Training Feb. 26 in Sandston, Va. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Guard Counter Drug Program)

“Dextroamphetamine is typically a positive result for a prescription medication a Soldier may have been taking when the urinalysis was conducted,” he explained. “If a Soldier has tested positive for DAMP, the unit is notified to contact the Soldier and have them provide current evidence or documentation of the prescription to the JSAP office. The JSAP Office then forwards the documentation to the state’s medical review officer for his determination on the result. 

“If the MRO finds that the current prescription is sufficient evidence to produce a positive result for DAMP, the case is closed and the unit and Soldier are notified as such,” Long continued. “If the MRO has determined that the documentation does not provide sufficient evidence of prescription use to have produced a positive result, the Soldier will be processed for a positive result.”   

Sgt. Danny Joyner, the Prevention, Treatment, and Outreach coordinator, also presented during the training. 

“My job is to ensure that any Soldiers or Airmen who want to receive treatment for substance abuse, or any other issue such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that can negatively affect Soldier readiness, are referred to the appropriate resource within the commonwealth.” 

Beyond substance abuse treatment, Joyner said that he has successfully referred service members to resources for mental health, financial assistance, homelessness, and family issues.

“This program will also refer family members for assistance if the family issues are affecting the Soldier,” Joyner said. “Airmen and Soldiers are not fully prepared to focus on their jobs if their families are struggling with issues.”   

Linton pointed out that “due to fluctuations in troop strength and deployments, the annual testing goal is a moving target.”  As a result his office plans to exceed the goal rather than just meet the goal. 

“Due to the professionalism and dedication of JSAP personnel, as well as the unit prevention leaders, we were able to test 107% of Soldiers and 84% of Airmen last year, exceeding the standard,” Dunn said.

In addition to the JSAP program, the Counter-Drug program places Guardsmen in the community conducting Drug Demand Reduction classes for schools and civic organizations, supports law enforcement agencies with criminal analysts and technical support, and provides aviation support to law enforcement agencies. 

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