Substance abuse disorders affect millions of people nationwide each year— whether through an individual’s experience, an impacted family, or the broader cost to society. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over the last five years, deaths by drug overdose in Wisconsin have continued to increase. Rural communities nationwide—like so many in Wisconsin–are particularly affected by the epidemic.
Helping people overcome substance abuse disorders requires a qualified, trained Substance Abuse Counselor (SAC). And demand for those counselors is increasing. The US Department of Labor predicts a 22 percent increase over the next six years in Wisconsin.
That’s why the UW Flexible Option Substance Use Disorders Counseling Certificate program—offered by UW-Madison—is now partnering directly with agencies, clinics, and mental health providers. This certificate provides the 360 specialized-educational hours required to earn a SAC license. After finishing the program’s first 100 hours, students are eligible to sit for their Substance Abuse Counselor-In Training license (SAC-IT).
Unified Community Services is the county behavioral health agency for Iowa and Grant counties, and was one of the first agency partners with the UW Flexible Option. Jeff Lockhart, Agency Director, shared that Unified Community Services recently transitioned its mental health and Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) programs into a combined behavioral health program. The goal of this move is overcoming treatment silos and providing integrated dual-diagnosis treatment.
“The challenge has been hiring clinicians who are dually credentialed, as there is a significant shortage of such,” Jeff said. “The Substance Use Disorder Counseling Certificate program has been the solution to this, allowing our mental health clinicians to obtain their SAC-IT certificates.”
As a competency-based program, the Substance Use Disorder Counseling Certificate is ideal for mental health professionals looking to become dually-licensed. Students move entirely at their own pace—100% online—through the 24-week program. There are no live log-on times or set course deadlines.
It’s those attributes make the Substance Use Disorder Counseling Certificate a great option for partnering with rural agencies. According to Jeff, the big win is “the ability for students to train at any time, from any location, without the need to commute to a distant city.”
“While there is a significant shortage of mental health providers, the shortage of AODA providers appears to be far worse; and the shortage of dually-licensed clinicians worst of all,” Jeff said. “This program and others like it can help to fill this gap while simultaneously dismantling the silos between mental health and AODA treatment.”
There are more than 300 graduates of this certificate statewide, which has measurably helped Wisconsin meet the demand for qualified clinicians.
Interested in partnering with us? Agency partners can receive a group tuition discount, direct invoicing, and the ability to email job postings to program graduates. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.