Mental Health -Talking about Addiction…

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This is the last in the series of articles on addiction, and discusses the system in place to support Canadian Armed Forces members dealing with addiction issues.

When a CAF member has an addiction issue, in most situations addiction and Medical Employment Limitations (MELs) will be appropriate. After all, MELs exist to protect the member so they can recover from illness and return to work.

MELs and TCat

Also, MELs (such as a temporary category or TCat) are the medical world’s way of communicating with the chain of command (CoC) regarding how a member can be employed. If someone has an addiction issue, then it is essential that MELs be considered to protect the member and those around them, as well as CAF resources.

In most circumstances, a TCat will be assigned. The MELs will not state that there is an addiction issue, as that information is confidential and private. Once the MELs are written, a chit is provided to the member and they are required to provide a copy to the CoC. Note that a chit does not preclude the CoC from taking disciplinary or administrative actions.

Medical Care

When there is an addiction issue, medical care is usually needed and the member may be referred to see a specialist or an addictions counsellor. Depending on the severity of the addiction, a treatment plan will be developed outlining the type of care the member needs, as well any MELs. Normally, treatment will be provided on an outpatient basis at the local clinic or with a provider in the community.

Every situation is different, and people may have different combinations of clinicians helping them. In the most severe cases, attending an inpatient treatment facility may be recommended. It is important to note that outpatient treatment is just as effective as inpatient treatment. Medical best practice recommends a six-month TCat to ensure an appropriate amount of time for treatment.

More time needed

At the end of the six months, the member should book an appointment to review MELs.

If more time is required, another TCat may be done, but even after two six-month TCats it is possible another TCat will be assigned. If after a significant amount of time, the member is not progressing in treatment or the addiction is chronic and may impact the member’s ability to continue service, the member’s medical file may be sent to Directorate Medical Policy (D Med Pol) for review and potential permanent medical restrictions.

Addiction is treatable and the CAF is committed to providing treatment and rehabilitation to its members. The Canadian Forces Health Services Group is responsible for treatment and for providing the CoC with appropriate MELs so they can assist their members in recovering from illness or injury. Appropriate MELs protect members while they are getting the help they need, so they can recover and return to full duty.

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