Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune article clearly explains the abject failure of giving traumatized veterans psychotropic medications without adequate therapy. The Public and the Media are beginning to understand the consequences of under-treated mentally damaged soldiers (violence/suicide/shattered lives) and the value of proper medical attention given early.

We learn slow as a nation, but we do learn. This story needs to be repeated (pass it on).

Almost nothing is known about the rivers of psychotropic medications that are poured into the millions five, seven, and nine year old children that pass through child protection systems in America without sufficient mental health services.

Judge Heidi Schellhas shared with me the quantity of Prozac, *Ritalin, and other mind altering psychotropic medications poured into the very young children that passed through her court room each year. The amounts were staggering.

One of my first cases as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem took me to a four year old girl at the suicide ward at a Minneapolis hospital. Many of my cases of very young children were taking powerful psychotropic medications and not receiving access to mental health professionals. There was almost no coordination of services for these children, one provider had no idea what another provider was doing or how they might work together in the interests of the very troubled child.

There is no doubt that traumatized children and veterans need better access to mental health services. Veterans are fortunate in that their traumas are readily understood, discussed, and addressed.

Not so with abused and neglected children. The Media and the Public fail to see that child do not end up in child protection services unless they have been traumatized.

It is America’s “Imminent Harm Doctrine” that rules child protection law, and it only allows children to be removed from a home if their lives are endangered. In my experience over twelve years as a guardian ad-Litem, all children removed from their homes have been endangered and severely traumatized. Many children that were not removed from their homes were traumatized also. They need help too.

It would serve us well as a nation to help them. Our schools, communities, families, and children would benefit.

*Ritalin was banned in Sweden in 1968 because of a huge increase in suicides in the nation attributed to its use.

Kids At Risk Action needs your support for its successful launch of televised public service announcements building awareness to the issues surrounding child abuse. In collaboration with award winning Salo of Finland, KARA is working to create and place ads on national TV. These ads will reach millions and create interest and understanding of this important and often misunderstood subject.
Please contact us with your questions, referrals, and donations.
The KARA team.

Healing eludes veterans at unit for broken warriors

Some soldiers sent to recover in a Warrior Transition Battalion say medication is too easy to get, while care is hard to come by.

By JAMES DAO and DAN FROSCH, New York Times


A year ago, Specialist Michael Crawford wanted nothing more than to get into Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion, a unit created to provide closely managed care for soldiers with physical wounds and severe psychological trauma.

A strapping Army sniper who once brimmed with confidence, he had returned emotionally broken from Iraq, where he suffered two concussions from roadside bombs and watched several platoon mates burn to death. The transition unit at Fort Carson, outside Colorado Springs, seemed the surest way to keep suicidal thoughts at bay, his mother thought.

It didn’t work. He was prescribed a laundry list of medications for anxiety, nightmares, depression and headaches that made him feel listless and disoriented. His once-a-week session with a nurse case manager seemed grossly inadequate to him. And noncommissioned officers — soldiers supervising the unit — harangued or disciplined him when he arrived late to formation or violated rules.

Last August, Crawford attempted suicide with a bottle of whiskey and painkillers. By the end of last year, he was begging to get out of the unit.

“It is just a dark place,” said the soldier, who is waiting to be medically discharged from the Army. “Being in the WTU is worse than being in Iraq.”

Created in the wake of the scandal in 2007 over serious shortcomings at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Warrior Transition Units were intended to be sheltering way stations where injured soldiers could recuperate and return to duty or gently process out of the Army. There are currently about 7,200 soldiers at 32 transition units across the Army, with about 465 soldiers at Fort Carson’s unit.

But interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson’s transition unit, along with reports from other posts, suggest that the units are far from being restful sanctuaries. For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson’s unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse.

‘You’re just floating’

Some soldiers in the unit, and their families, described long hours alone in their rooms, or in homes off the base, aimlessly drinking or playing video games.

“In combat, you rely on people and you come out of it feeling good about everything,” said a specialist in the unit. “Here, you’re just floating. You’re not doing much. You feel worthless.”

At Fort Carson, many soldiers complained that doctors prescribed drugs too readily. As a result, some soldiers have become addicted to their medications. Medications are so abundant that some soldiers in the unit openly deal, buy or swap prescription pills.

Heavy use of psychotropic drugs and narcotics makes it difficult to exercise, wake for morning formation and attend classes, soldiers and health care professionals said. Yet noncommissioned officers discipline soldiers who fail to complete those tasks, sometimes over the objections of nurse case managers and doctors.

At least four soldiers in the Fort Carson unit have committed suicide since 2007, the most of any transition unit as of February, according to the Army.

Senior officers in the Army’s Warrior Transition Command declined to discuss specific soldiers. But they said Army surveys showed that most soldiers treated in transition units since 2007, more than 50,000 people, had liked the care.

Those senior officers acknowledged that addiction to medications was a problem, but they denied that Army doctors relied too heavily on drugs. And they defended disciplining wounded soldiers when they violated rules.

“These guys are still soldiers, and we want to treat them like soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Grantham, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson.

The colonel offered another explanation for complaints about the unit. Many soldiers, he said, struggle in transition units because they would rather be with regular, deployable units. In some cases, he said, they feel ashamed of needing treatment.

“Some come to us with an identity crisis,” he said. “They don’t want to be seen as part of the WTU. But we want them to identify with a purpose and give them a mission.”

A changed man

Sgt. John Conant, a 15-year veteran of the Army, returned from his second tour of Iraq in 2007 a changed man, according to his wife, Delphina. Angry and sullen, he reported to the transition unit at Fort Carson, where he was prescribed at least six medications a day for sleeping disorders, pain and anxiety.

The medications disoriented him, Delphina Conant said, and he would often wander the house late at night before curling up on the floor and falling asleep. Then in April 2008, after taking morphine and Ambien, the sleeping pill, he died in his sleep. A coroner ruled that his death was from natural causes. He was 36.

Delphina Conant said she felt her husband never received meaningful therapy at the transition unit. “They didn’t want to do anything but give him medication,” she said.

Other soldiers and health care workers at Fort Carson offered similar complaints.

“These kids change their medication like they change their underwear,” said a psychotherapist who works with Fort Carson soldiers and asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the transition unit. “They can’t even remember which pills they’re taking.”

More problems

Michael Crawford has been waiting more than a year for his medical discharge. As his anxiety and depression have worsened, so have his problems in the unit. His rank was recently reduced to private in punishment for overstaying leave and using marijuana.

But things are looking up, his mother believes: He will be able to stay with her in Michigan while awaiting his discharge. His mother, Sally Darrow, has already seen one son commit suicide. She believes that Michael would become the second if he had to return to Fort Carson and the transition unit.

“At home, with family and schoolmates, he’s dealing with things better,” Darrow said. “He’s not safe there.”