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Secretary of the Army coming to JBLM to announce results of behavioral health investigation

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Feb. 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
February 1, 2013 5:35 pm

Secretary of the Army John McHugh plans to visit Joint Base Lewis-McChord Monday to announce the results of a service-wide investigation into behavioral health programs and to meet with Stryker soldiers recently home from Afghanistan.

McHugh last visited Lewis-McChord in April when he announced that the Army would create a new division headquarters at the base to provide better oversight of its main combat brigades.

That headquarters, the 7th Infantry Division, opened in October under Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza. It  is hosting McHugh’s visit next week and it now supervises more than 17,000 soldiers in five Army brigades.

Patient complaints about behavioral health diagnoses at Madigan Army Medical Center last year contributed to the call for the Army-wide review that McHugh is preparing to disclose.

The complaints centered on a formerly well-regarded forensic psychiatry program that had the last look at diagnoses for patients leaving the Army through medical retirements. Sometimes, the doctors changed diagnoses from post-traumatic stress disorder to another condition, a decision that could reduce benefits and change care plans for patients.

Those diagnoses coupled with a Madigan inspector general report that showed a forensic psychiatry doctor seemingly encouraging employees to consider long-term costs of care to taxpayers in evaluating patients prompted the Defense Department to launch multiple reviews into Madigan as well as broader behavioral health issues across the Army.

Prior to the complaints, Madigan’s forensic psychiatry program was an example of “best practices” in Army behavioral health, according to documents obtained by The News Tribune.

The Army has since ceased using forensic psychiatrists as extensively as it had at Madigan prior to the investigations, and it has diagnosed 150 former Madigan patients with PTSD.

The Army in August announced its reforms to the Madigan program and reinstated hospital commander Col. Dallas Homas after placing him on restricted duties during the initial investigation.

The Army has declined to release documents about its Madigan investigations to The News Tribune, contending that they were part of a service-wide review of behavioral health programs.

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