Filling the Void: Training a New Breed of Substance Abuse Counselors

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Mott_filling_voidThe passage of the Affordable Care Act made sweeping changes to the health care environment in the United States. Those changes include mandates that insurance companies, including Medicaid, cover treatment for mental health disorders and addiction.

As a result, substance abuse treatment is now within reach for millions of Americans and the demand for substance abuse specialists is high. It is predicted that between now and 2020 the addiction services field will need to fill more than 330,000 jobs to keep pace with increasing demand and specialist retirement.

Mott Community College is ready to meet that demand. The College’s new Substance Abuse Services Certificate is specifically designed to address the shortage of qualified addiction counselors while filling a void in patient treatment methods. The coursework in the certificate fulfills the educational portion of requirements for Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) through the Michigan Certification Board for Addiction Professionals. Candidates complete a combination of educational and work or volunteer hours, and must pass a written exam, to become a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

Until recently, treatment of mental health disorders and treatment of addiction were divided into separate categories.  This left patients with both mental health and substance abuse concerns without a holistic treatment plan. The new combination of treatment means that substance abuse specialists need to have awareness and an understanding of the common co-occurring disorders.

“MCC’s new program includes two courses that specifically address this portion of the patient population,” said Paul Jordan, former program coordinator and Social Work faculty member. “This new program is at the leading edge of substance abuse treatment and was designed by working treatment professionals who identified voids in the current system. Our program fills these voids.”

The program is being launched in the Fall 2015 semester.  It will enhance the skill set of students in the Social Work Technician program as well as those currently working in human services-related fields. This type of program should appeal to “students who have had complicated lives that have given them experiences that commit them to helping people,” said Jordan.

MCC hopes that Substance Abuse Services Certificate program graduates will enjoy the same success as Social Work Technician graduates; over 27 percent of student interns in the Social Work program are offered full-time positions with the company where they intern.

MCC is working hard to prepare a new breed of substance abuse counselors who will be ready for the challenges in the changing health care environment and be ahead of the curve in comprehensive treatment methods.

For more information on the CADC certification, visit For more information on the Substance Abuse Certificate program visit the website at

Student Profile: Faylena Morris

Connecting With Someone on a Deeper Level

Faylena Morris

Faylena Morris

I’m a returning student-—I started here in 1985 and liked it a lot but I had to leave to take care of my family. Now that I’m retired and have helped get my grandkids to school age, I decided to come back. It started off as just something to do; I didn’t really have any career goals in mind. But I went through the classes and realized how much I liked the Social Work Program and felt so inspired and empowered by the faculty in this four-year journey, that I stayed to finish the Social Work Program and decided to start the Substance Abuse Program.

Why are you interested in the Substance Abuse Certificate?

I enjoy seeing others grasp hold of living life on life’s terms—that’s a hard thing to do, and I enjoy empowering people through my testimony-I’m 8 years clean—and showing them that if God can do this for me, he can do it for them. I’ve been a volunteer in the mental health community for over 25 years, and that community is awesome—getting someone to do something as simple as holding a pencil when others have failed means I can come in and connect with someone on a deeper level–I’m not searching anymore, I’ve found my purpose.

Do you think the program has prepared you for a career?

With what I’ve been taught, along with the new course I plan to take, not only will I get a certificate but I will also be more effective for my future clients—I’ve got a piece here and a piece there, and I can put it all together to be a dynamite social worker.

What advice would you give to an incoming student to MCC or to this program?

Build a solid network of people that want to see you succeed, get into the programs, use the labs, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you just don’t know. A lot of instructors know that you don’t know–be willing to be open minded and listen to what they are teaching; A closed mouth will not get fed just like a closed mind will not learn.

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