—by Paul M. Kubek
Cleveland, Ohio—Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a problem that is just not going away. Recent headlines about the abuse of prescription painkillers in Ohio is more evidence of that fact. So it is important to have highly skilled and highly trained chemical-dependency counselors in every community. They fulfill the important role of helping people reduce and eliminate their use of addictive substances and, thus, help improve their physical health, mental health, interpersonal relationships, and financial well-being.
For over 30 years, the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (the school of social work) at Case Western Reserve University has been preparing many of these highly skilled counselors for practice in Ohio through two specializations in its master's degree program-one specialization focuses upon mental health and another upon alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA). Students in these specializations prepare for two important credentials, which include a professional license in social work and a license in chemical-dependency counseling.
The Mandel School recently achieved another milestone in its long history of excellence and leadership in the field of social-work education. Its AODA specialization was accredited by a new professional-licensing entity called the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board (OCDPB). This means that master's students who complete the AODA courses will also meet the "formal education requirement" of the OCDPB, which oversees the certification and licensure of professionals who range from the novice to the most advanced, including the following:
- Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant (CDCA)
- Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor II (LCDC II)
- Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor III (LCDC III)
- Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor (LICDC)
According to Kathleen J. Farkas, PhD, associate professor of social work at the Mandel School, the AODA specialization dates back to 1975. Numerous graduates are licensed independent social workers (LISWs) who are also certified in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of alcohol and other drug-abuse problems, including the following:
- Problematic substance use
- Substance abuse
- Substance dependence
Farkas emphasizes that the OCDPB is a new board that provides an additional option in licensing. It does not replace the LISW. The OCDPB accreditation acknowledges that coursework in the AODA specialization includes specific content about addiction and treatment and that it requires students to complete a specific number of supervised contact hours with people in treatment during field experiences. To achieve a professional license, students must complete these formal educational requirements and also complete a formal application and pass a written exam.
A HISTORY OF INNOVATION
According to Lenore A. Kola, PhD, associate professor of social work and co-director of the Mandel School's Center for Evidence-Based Practices (CEBP), the accreditation from OCDPB adds value to a curriculum that already has breadth and depth. The School sets itself apart from other graduate-level schools of social work by providing a large number of advanced-practice courses. Also, all master's students participate in a paid field placement and have access to scholarships and fellowships.
In a career spanning over 35 years, Kola has developed and implemented over 10 different training programs for master's students and professionals alike, programs funded by Federal, state, and county agencies, as well as by charitable foundations. She established the AODA specialization at the Mandel School and was part of the leadership team assembled by the Ohio Department of Mental Health that brought a block grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to Ohio in 2000 to begin a statewide implementation of Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment (IDDT), the evidence-based practice for people with co-occurring severe mental illness and substance use disorders. National studies show that people with severe mental illness experience a high rate of substance use and abuse. She notes that many more states are now supporting integrated treatment as a solution to the problem.
Kola has been instrumental in working with Mandel School faculty to add courses in dual diagnosis and treatment to the curriculum. There is not an accreditation process or professional license for integrated treatment of co-occurring disorders yet; however, students in the AODA and mental-health specializations acquire the knowledge and skills to demonstrate proficiency with the approach. She notes that two senior-level staff members at the CEBP are Mandel School graduates who are licensed in both social work (mental health) and chemical-dependency counseling and have extensive experience in both (see "Alumni" section below).
"Our curriculum has been ahead of many of our peer institutions, and, as a result, our graduates have been leaders among their peers," Kola says. "Our curriculum attracts the go-getters, those students and working professionals who are looking ahead, asking themselves and the profession a number of important questions, like ‘What do people in this community need? How can we improve what we do? How can we improve outcomes for the people we serve?'"
RELOCATE TO OHIO
The Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board is a member of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (ICRC). Individuals with licenses in chemical-dependency counseling from licensing boards in other states and overseas that are members of the ICRC who wish to relocate to and practice in Ohio should contact the Ohio board for more information about reciprocity of licensing requirements (click here).
Individuals interested in pursuing a master's degree in social work, including a specialization in mental health and AODA, should contact the Mandel School (click here).
Numerous alumni of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences are licensed independent social workers and chemical-dependency counselors, including two staff members of the School's Center for Evidence-Based Practices (CEBP) and Ohio Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Coordinating Center of Excellence (SAMI CCOE) initiative:
- Patrick E. Boyle, MSSA ('89), LISW-S, LICDC, director of implementation services
- Ric Kruszynski, MSSA ('93), LISW, LICDC, director of SAMI consulting and training
Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices (CEBP) at Case Western Reserve University.