Workforce Forum to focus on increased job demand for addiction treatment, prevention professionals

Marshall University has joined forces with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA); NAADAC (National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors), the Association for Addiction Professionals; and  the West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities in the Department of Health and Human Resources to host a collegiate Workforce Forum on Tuesday, April 25, to encourage college students to enter into the addiction and mental health workforce.

The forum will focus on the rewarding benefits of the substance use and mental health disciplines, the national workforce shortage and West Virginia’s workforce needs, state certification and licensing requirements, networking and mentoring connections, and other professional development opportunities.

The West Virginia Workforce Forum will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Don Morris Room of the Memorial Student Center on Marshall’s Huntington campus. In addition, the event will be live-streamed to the public and coordinated satellite events at eight other West Virginia colleges and universities: Bluefield State College, BridgeValley Community and Technical College, Concord University, Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College, Erma Byrd Higher Education Center, Southern West Virginia Community Technical College, West Virginia University and Wheeling Jesuit University.

Speakers will include representatives from the West Virginia Bureau of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, West Virginia Single State Agency, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, the West Virginia Association of Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselors (WVAADAC), and the West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction & Prevention Professionals. The forum will also include a provider panel, with representatives from Valley HealthCare System, Rea of Hope, Prestera Center, and Marshall University Counseling Center, and two student panels. Finally, in-person attendees will be able to network with local substance use disorder treatment providers to learn more about employment and internship opportunities.

"Workforce shortages in the addiction profession are endangering our ability to work effectively with the opioid and alcohol epidemics in West Virginia and across the country," said NAADAC Executive Director Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, "It is inspiring that the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities is taking the reins on this issue by addressing the need to develop more workforce by sponsoring a forum to call attention to the need and to increase the awareness of the addiction specialist discipline. Education, competency and skills that are specific to addiction treatment and recovery are the strategies that will help us win the day on this crisis."

According to The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, released in November 2016, although 20.8 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder in 2015, only 2.2 million people (10.4%) received any type of treatment. Of those treated, only 63.7% received treatment in specialty substance use disorder treatment programs, in part due to a nationwide shortage of professionals trained to work in this specialty field. The addiction and mental health and professional workforce must grow and strengthen to manage this increased demand for its vital services, especially in states like West Virginia which has the highest rate of deaths from drug overdoses of any state. It is more imperative now than ever that we recruit and retain our professional addiction and mental health workforce.