Recovering from addiction most often requires the help of counselors, case managers and more, but what happens when there’s a shortage of those professionals?
“We have a huge workforce deficit in the United States and it’s even worse in West Virginia,” said Frankie Tack, Clinical Assistant Professor and Addiction Studies Minor Coordinator at the West Virginia University College of Education and Human Services.
With the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the country and the highest rate of babies born physically dependent on opioids, the need for those who can aid in addiction recovery in the Mountain State is critical.
“We need folks who understand the complex brain disease that addiction is,” Tack said. “We need them prepared to work with people with substance abuse disorders and we need them prepared to work with the families and communities.”
21 percent of the state’s counties have no counselor, making more barriers to treatment, including traveling to another county for recovery.
“Being face to face with a counselor is really most effective in getting needs met in that change process and dealing with the underlying issues that maybe they’re around addiction, learning coping skills, dealing with relapse,” Tack explained.
With that need in mind, West Virginia University has created an addiction studies minor.
“Our students often don’t really get what it’s like when people go through giving something up, something they love and people with substance abuse disorders love their drug, even if it’s turned on them and created a lot of consequences,” said Tack about the minor.
To help them understand, the minor features traditional theory classes, a service component and an abstinence project, which includes peer support meetings.
“They can feel all the temptation to lie to me and their classmates,” Tack explained. “They can feel what it’s like when they reengage the activity they’ve quit and feel all the embarrassment and shame around that and know they have to come tell it.”
WVU anticipates the first students will complete the program in May of 2019.
“It’s highly rewarding to see somebody get clean and sober and recover and heal their lives it’s just remarkable,” Tack said. “It’s magical.”