Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The future of the addictions professional field

The latest issue of Resource Links, Vol.9, #1, on Addiction Treatment and the Criminal Justice System has an interesting article by New York State Office Of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Commissioner, Karen Carpenter-Palumbo entitled "New York's Drug Law Reform Highlights: Critical Need For Addictions Professionals.

Here is part of what she writes:

Click on image to enlarge for easier reading.

What the Commissioner doesn't mention is that Substance Abuse Counselor is #13 on CNN Money's list of most stressful and worst paid jobs in America. Social Work, by the way, is #1 and many Social Workers work in the Substance Abuse field.

Salaries for CASACs and other substance abuse staff are very poor and are not likely to attract many people into the field who aren't highly motivated by altruistic concerns. Most not-for-profit agencies don't pay much beyond poverty wages and provide very poor benefits.

While it is true that substance abuse staff who work in State and County agencies make a decent wage with decent benefits, those who work in community based not-for-profits make half what state employees make. There are many reasons for this.

While I share the Commissioner's optimism for the need for and the growth of addictions professionals, attention needs to be paid to reimbursement schemes for not-for-profit agencies that provide the bulk of substance abuse services in New York State. These jobs are very stressful, poorly paid, and provide poor benefits. It is hard to see how the system will prosper when its human resource management leaves a lot to be desired. With the Governor's Budget Deficit Reduction plan, there is little hope that increased funding will find its way to the substance abuse work force. Already, New York State has canceled its promise for a 2010 COLA (Cost of Living Increase) and a high placed OASAS official has told GCASA staff that OASAS would look unfavorably on a 2% raise for GCASA's already underpaid staff.

I wish I could share the Commissioner's optimism and I hope she is right, but down here on the front lines, in the trenches, I am not feeling it while wages and benefits for hard working and skilled addictions professionals are so low.

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