Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College is addressing the need for professional counselors who can help addicts get their lives back on track. The college is offering a program that will train people to become a group counselor specializing in addiction.
The Appalachian Regional Commission worked with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) to study drug use in the 410-county Appalachian Region as compared to the rest of the country.
The research found opiate abuse is a problem in coal mining areas. Charles Woods, department chair for criminal justice at Southern, said many of those who are addicted to opiates started using painkillers when they were injured on the job.
“The mental image we have of addicts is simply not true,” Woods said. “They come from every economic background, every walk of life.”
The NORC study showed that, while alcohol is still the predominant substance of abuse nationally and in Appalachia, prescription painkiller addiction is in fact a major problem in the area.
The data shows admission rates for primary abuse of prescriptions painkillers (opiates and synthetics) are higher in Appalachia than in the rest of the nation. This is especially true in coal-mining areas. Admission rates are rising across the nation, but are rising at a faster pace in Appalachia. Appalachia’s rate, which doubled from 2000 to 2004, is more than twice the nation’s.
Woods told the Daily News drug abuse is becoming a multi-generational problem, with children being raised by addicted parents and in turn raising their own children within a dysfunctional framework, creating a cycle of drug use that is often impossible to break without intervention and treatment.
Dr. Cindy McCoy, academic dean of University Transfer Programs at Southern, said Prestera, a mental health care company, approached the college about developing a program for substance abuse counseling. The need is growing, McCoy said, and the company is working with the college to place graduates of the program in jobs upon completing the program.
The certificate program is designed combining traditional and experimental learning, and is offered to students who do not have a degree.The program has been designed combining traditional, theoretical and experimental learning. The required classes can be completed in two years, and the certificate gives graduates the skills needed to work in residential treatment centers serving addiction patients.
The A.S. degree requires 68 credit hours, 29 general education hours and 39 hours of advance courses.
The program is limited to twenty students, which are accepted in spring and fall semesters.
Students who apply to the program are required to submit a 300 word essay explaining why they feel they would succeed as an addiction counselor, a background check and a drug screen.
For more information, call Southern at 304-235-6460, McCoy at 304-236-7367, or Woods at 304-896-7386.