Kent State Fills Need for Addiction Counselors in Ohio

Public Health is newest college to offer certificate in addiction counseling

Kent State University’s College of Public Health has taken steps to put more addiction counselors to work in Ohio.  

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The college has partnered with the College of Education, Health and Human Services (EHHS) to make available to its master’s degree students in social and behavioral sciences an existing certificate in addictions counseling. Administered by EHHS, this certificate enables public health students to complete the coursework for the certification as they earn their master’s degrees. 

Public Health Professor Eric Jefferis, Ph.D.
Eric Jefferis

Professor Eric Jefferis, Ph.D., who teaches the College of Public Health’s courses in social and behavioral sciences and serves as graduate program coordinator, said once public health was approved by the state as one of the umbrella areas to license chemical dependency counselors, he took immediate steps to embed it into the master’s curriculum.

“We’ve been interested in this opportunity for a while,” Jefferis explained. “I’ve had students in the past who have asked me if they are eligible to get certified for chemical dependency licensure, so it’s always been in the back of my mind.”

Anyone who wants to become a licensed addiction counselor in Ohio must take the coursework to earn certification at the university level, which typically takes a year. However, by crafting a new curriculum in the social and behavioral sciences master’s concentration to add the certification courses into the mix, those master’s candidates will earn the certificate as they go.

The revamped master’s program creates another avenue for putting more addiction counselors to work in Ohio and adds value to the master’s degree program.

The ongoing opioid crisis in Ohio and nationwide has created a substantial need for addiction counselors. The U.S. Department of Labor classifies "substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor" as a “bright outlook” occupation, which is expected to grow rapidly in the next several years and will have large numbers of job openings. 

Currently, there are more than 388,000 existing substance abuse treatment counselor jobs nationwide, and that number is projected to rise by 18% to 460,000 by 2032. In Ohio, the job has projected growth of 21% by 2030, with 1,130 job openings expected annually, according to the Labor Department.

“We’re excited because it fits with our students’ interests and needs,” Jefferis said. The certificate will become part of the master’s degree program beginning in the 2024 Fall Semester.

At Kent State, the certification in addiction counseling program is administered within EHHS by Cynthia Osborn, Ph.D., professor of counselor education and supervision. 

Cynthia J. Osborn
Cynthia Osborn

She explained that Kent State has offered the certificate for the past six years, but only students in specific pertinent behavioral sciences majors, such as nursing and psychology, were approved to obtain the certification by the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board.  

Recently, the board amended those requirements to open the coursework to public health majors as well, which paved the way for that college to embed the certificate into its master’s program.

“This opens up career pathways for students in various majors and disciplines,” Osborn said.

Osborn said the certificate program is available for undergraduate students, too, but the coursework is in addition to their major’s curriculum. For undergraduates who want to obtain the certification, help is available that will pay for a substantial portion of the cost, she said.

For three years, Kent State has been the recipient of a federal workforce development training grant for the Addictions Counseling Certificate Experiential Paraprofessional Training Program (ACCEPT) – money that is earmarked to help put more addiction counselors in the field to combat the ongoing opioid crisis, Osborn explained.

Undergraduate students who take the 12-month program to obtain the counseling certification are eligible for $8,000 to help pay for the program's cost, Osborn said. The program will remain in place through August 2025. More than 50 students have benefitted from the ACCEPT program in its first four years. 

A grant program through Ohio’s Great Minds Fellowship offers similar assistance to graduate students enrolled in the addiction counseling certificate program. That grant will expire in May 2025, she added.

Erin Wehrenberg, a graduate student in clinical mental health counseling, received the grant to help pay for her addiction counseling certification, which she said helped to defray the costs of the coursework.

In addition, Wehrenberg said the clinical training hours required for her program have given her great experience and great field contacts for when she is ready to look for a position.

“I do feel like I will be job-ready once I finish,” she said. 

POSTED: Tuesday, March 12, 2024 02:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2024 04:27 PM
Lisa Abraham