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 Kentucky Drug/Alcohol Counseling Programs Get Boost Under New Bill

KENTUCKY (03/16/15) - As the General Assembly nears resolution on legislation to combat the state’s heroin epidemic, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Leslie Combs that is set to become law is poised to help more addicts get the treatment they need by broadening the state’s licensing program for alcohol/drug counselors.

“It is impossible to overstate just how important these counselors are in a state like ours that has been hit especially hard by addiction,” said Rep. Combs, D-Pikeville. “House Bill 92 will encourage more professionals to pursue this career while making it easier to enlist former addicts who want to use their own experiences to help others escape the deadly cycle of drugs and alcohol.”

The state established professional requirements for certified alcohol/drug counselors in 1996. Under House Bill 92, which is set to be signed by Gov. Beshear on March 24th, the state will now recognize three levels:

• Licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor, a new designation that will require a Master’s Degree, specific education in addiction counseling and three years of supervised experience in addiction treatment. There is an associate license in this category for those who meet the education requirements but don’t yet have the required 2,000 hours of supervised experience.

• Certified alcohol and drug counselor, the current designation that requires a four-ear college degree and supervised experience; and

• Registered alcohol and drug peer support specialist, which requires a high school degree, 500 hours of approved experience working with addicts, 60 hours of approved education classes and at least two years of being in recovery from a substance-abuse disorder.

Rep. Combs worked closely with state Rep. Joni Jenkins of Shively on the legislation and partnered as well with the Kentucky Association of Regional Programs, Inc. (KARP), which represents the state’s community mental health centers that serve more than 180,000 Kentuckians each year.

According to KARP, the enhanced licensing program authorized by House Bill 92 is expected to attract more professionals with advanced degrees to the field of addiction counseling. KARP added that the bill is not expected to increase state expenses; in fact, it says expanding access to more effective treatment will reduce healthcare and corrections costs.

Rep. Combs and KARP officials emphasized that this new law does not change the status of currently certified alcohol/drug counselors or the work they now do. The current requirements for their certification will not change, either.

“Our goal is to bring in more people who may have different education and experience levels but still have the same goal: to help our citizens overcome their addictions,” Rep. Combs said. “The heroin legislation the General Assembly is now working on is expected to call for more treatment options. This law will help us to achieve that goal as well as help us be ready for any other drug problem that may occur.”

Posted by J.L. Graham
KenCo News