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The Problem of Workforce Development in the Addictions Field

Published By Cary Hopkins Eyles, MA, CAP on 6.20.20

In 2017, I remember hearing Dr. Kim Johnson speak about the issues in behavioral health workforce and how we would not have enough practitioners for the expected growth in demand for counselors in the addiction fields. The University of Michigan Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center echoes this sentiment (August 2017). As someone who had just left a non-profit treatment center, I hadn’t thought in terms of workforce development and yet it had been an issue all the time. How to get, train, and keep competent addictions professionals? While we certainly have issues of capacity, adequate training and other issues in the United States, our colleagues around the world struggle to an even greater degree with this issue. A recent webinar conducted by Dr. Chia Francis from Nigeria illuminated challenges with the addiction workforce in their country ( ). A growing drug problem and barriers to treatment services were a cause of concern in the 1990’s in Nigeria. Since identifying this issue, over 1,000 service providers from hospitals, counseling centers, and CSOs have been trained on TREATNET. In addition, through partnership with the Colombo Plan, the Universal Treatment Curriculum (UTC) has been introduced in Nigeria and training has begun. National trainers have been trained and now train others in their organizations and beyond, such that more people are becoming trained in UTC; this training of trainers is a more sustainable model. There remains, however, a shortage of trained workforce in substance use disorders treatment in Nigeria, as in many places around the world.

There is no simple, or single, answer to this issue. The Colombo Plan is working diligently through the Global Centre for Credentialing and Certification ( ) to train and certify qualified addictions professionals. We at ICUDDR work closely with faculty around the globe to help them develop or improve their addictions programs at a University level. We know the need is there, around the world, but there are barriers such as politics, costs, and varying priorities.

But there is hope! Beatrice Kathungu presents great information from her own experience on how to develop University-based academic programs in drug demand reduction in resource constrained countries ( ) Zili Sloboda presents with years if experience on building capacity of the prevention workforce worldwide ( ), and Matej Kosir presents passionately about advocating for addiction science programs at the University level. Work such as theirs, and studies such as Dr. Francis’, will bring us closer to our goals of ensuring that every individual who needs behavioral health treatment will receive it with a competent, caring, well trained staff.

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