Support for SB 992 – Licensure for Alcohol Drug and Counselors
California is one of only a handful of populous states that does not have a license for alcohol and drug counselors. And as Californians die from opioid deaths in record numbers, they lack the most essential item in the continuum of care for treating substance use disorder: access to licensed, independent drug and alcohol counselors who can treat the disease at the earliest stage of its progression. It is imperative that California employ every tool at its disposal to reduce the impact of the opioid epidemic and the burgeoning stimulant epidemic.
Without independent practitioner licenses for alcohol and drug counselors, people must become sick enough to warrant expensive inpatient or intensive outpatient care before they can receive care. Additionally, those who seek care in the unregulated outpatient market also lack basic consumer protection, making them vulnerable to unscrupulous actors, incompetent treatment, and patient brokering that can lead to human trafficking.
California currently faces an urgent lack of qualified alcohol and drug counselors, so much so that some programs are now unable to comply with regulations for minimum staffing requirements. The lack of a license has exacerbated the workforce crisis because practitioners seeking to progress in their careers frequently turn to mental health professions where licenses are available.
SB 992 will create a license for alcohol and drug counselors at the master’s degree level by providing the Department of Public Health (DPH) the authority to accept advanced certification as the standard for licensure. It is urgent that we address the SUD workforce crisis and increase consumer protections for this especially vulnerable community. With record high opioid deaths, this gap in care can no longer be addressed with the existing infrastructure of regulation and independent measures taken by private certifying organizations; alcohol and drug counselors need licensure now.
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