Frank L. Greenagel has made his mark in numerous ways in the addiction treatment, education and recovery communities, from establishing collegiate recovery programs at Rutgers University to serving on the New Jersey Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Yet this Army veteran's recent experience assisting a Marine who nearly died of an addiction, amid an apparently indifferent system of care, has convinced him to add another task to an already packed schedule. It may be his most important yet.
Greenagel, who last September delivered an engaging plenary presentation on street drug trends at our 2013 National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD), rejoined the Army last week at age 38 and will work as a behavioral science officer in the Pennsylvania National Guard. He will spend the equivalent of one to two months a year assisting troops. Some will have substance use problems and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while others might just need a boost to encourage them to further their education.
Greenagel, who served eight years in the Army beginning in the mid-1990s, last week posted a blog in which he reiterated frustration with substandard healthcare services in the military—and a public that doesn't look much beyond the superficial toward veterans. He wrote, “People need to do more than say 'thank you for your service,' cheer for veterans during sporting events, or share a meme on Facebook (I don't want to minimize these things, though. They are helpful gestures and are appreciated. We just need to do more). We need them to tell their Congressman to vote for more military and veterans benefits, like basic, timely medical service.”
One of Greenagel's Rutgers students had firsthand knowledge of the problem, having been wounded in Afghanistan and eventually being discharged under other than honorable conditions after becoming addicted to prescribed medication. He eventually got clean, became an electrician and furthered his education. But when he spoke before the Governor's Council last December, he talked of himself and many other veterans having received “sub-par treatment and non-existent therapy,” Greenagel wrote in his blog. “The Council was aghast.”
Shortly after that talk, Greenagel starting exploring how he could be of service again. He will continue to teach at Rutgers' School of Social Work and is now running an intensive outpatient program in New Brunswick.
He wrote in his blog last week, “I have my hands in many things, a lot of work obligations and a large number of hobbies that I like to partake in. I've already served in the military. I can make more money doing other things.”
Then he added, “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”