Local News

UNC revamps soldier support program after criticism

Posted November 14, 2009 11:59 a.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2009 12:03 p.m. EST

— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Friday that a new leader will take charge of restructuring the Citizen-Soldier Support Program criticized in an internal audit.

Bob Goodale, a former Harris Teeter CEO and deputy state commerce secretary, is charged with "significantly restructuring" the program to focus on the behavioral health needs of return veterans and their families, according to a press release.

"Behavioral health is Citizen-Soldier’s most successful component, so we’ll focus on that strength in providing assistance to soldiers coming back from active duty along with their families,” said Dr. Tony Waldrop, vice chancellor for research and economic development.

Goodale has directed CSSP's behavioral health initiative since 2007. He takes over Monday from Peter Leousis, who continue as deputy director of UNC's Howard Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, where CSSP is based.

Waldrop said that CSSP's first goal will be to create a statewide behavioral health "safety net' before 4,500 soldiers with the North Carolina National Guard's 30th Heavy Combat Brigade returns from Iraq next year.

In January, the program will launch an online, searchable database of civilian behavioral health providers. CSSP has also trained 2,000 providers to handle post-traumatic stress and brain injuries in veterans. The program has collaborated with area health centers which are served by UNC faculty and students.

Waldrop outlined other changes to the program:

  • Phase out the Building Community Partnership and redirect that funding to expanding the behavioral health initiative.
  • Move a training program for Building Community Partnerships to the Jordan Institute for Families in the UNC School of Social Work to leverage existing strengths in the social work school
  • Reduce staff positions and reach out to a National Guard advisory council to gain more support

CSSP was created in 2004 with $9.8 million in funding secured by Rep. David Price, D-District 4.

Rep. Sue Myrick, R-District 9, received a complaint criticizing the program's effectiveness in mid-2008, and UNC Chancellor Holden Thorpe recommended changes to the program in September.

The internal audit found that CSSP suffered from shifting objectives and leadership turnover and overpaid some staff, relied too much on contractors and had some under-performing staff members, according to an article in the Carolina Alumni Review.

The alumni magazine reported that Waldrop said CSSP had $2.1 million left in funding that runs out this year and had asked for another year to spend the money.