Too Few Addiction Counselors Available to Fight Opioid Epidemic

Too Few Addiction Counselors Available to Fight Opioid Epidemic

More addiction counselors are leaving the field at a time when demand for their services is increasing, NPR reports.

Addiction treatment professionals say the reason people are leaving include burnout and low pay.

Addiction counselors earn an average of $40,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As the toll of drug overdose deaths increases, communities are trying to increase the number of treatment beds, the article notes. The shortage of addiction counselors is hampering that effort.

The Affordable Care Act and other federal laws have allowed millions more Americans to obtain health insurance that will help pay for addiction treatment.

Amelie Gooding, who runs Phoenix House in Keene, New Hampshire, told NPR she has been short a full-time counselor for a year and half. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, there aren’t enough beds!'” she said. “But there’s not enough treatment staff to open more beds.” Because she does not have enough staff, she has had to leave three of her 18 residential beds empty. She has also reduced her outpatient groups down to 50 percent capacity.

Former counselor Melissa Chickering, who used to work for Gooding at Phoenix House, said addiction counselors take on their clients’ pain. She called the lack of funding and coordination from the state “criminal.”

Anne Herron, who leads workforce development for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, says her agency is trying to address the counseling shortage, in part by developing training curricula for high schools and colleges.

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