The Maryland Higher Education Commission recently approved the college’s application to offer an Associate of Applied Science degree in addictions counseling. College officials said the program will address a regional — and national — concern while training students for a career field with expanding job opportunities.
“Substance abuse costs society $442 billion each year in health costs, lost productivity and criminal justice costs,” said Dr. Terry Kasecamp, a Garrett College professor of psychology who designed the new program, adding that ongoing health care and criminal justice reform efforts are expanding the need for addiction prevention and treatment services.
“The demand for addiction counselors is expected to increase significantly,” added Kasecamp, citing recent initiatives requiring insurance plans to cover addiction and substance abuse treatment, as well as the trend toward states seeking treatment rather than jail time for drug offenders.
“The opioid crisis has intensified the need for colleges to provide qualified counselors who can help Western Maryland effectively deal with this issue,” said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College’s president. “This program will address that need and help prepare local residents to fill an expanding number of positions in this vital field.”
Job growth for substance abuse and behavioral health counselors is projected to increase by 22 percent nationwide and 35 percent in Maryland between 2014 and 2024, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Those statistics played a role in Garrett College’s decision to develop the new degree program, according to Dr. Qing Yuan, GC’s dean of academic affairs and chief academic officer.
“This degree aligns with GC’s mission statement and strategic plan objective to create innovative and sustainable programs that serve community needs and train students for careers with strong employment opportunities,” said Yuan.
Garrett College’s program is designed for students who plan to qualify as a certified supervised alcohol and drug counselor and enter the workforce after completing a two-year degree in addiction counseling. The program meets a Maryland state requirement that CSC-ADs have an associate’s degree or higher in a human services counseling field that includes 24 college credits in addiction- and counseling-related coursework and a six-credit field placement.
While AAS degrees are meant primarily for immediate entry into the job force, the program has been designed to help facilitate transfer to four-year institutions, including Frostburg State University.
“Garrett College has a long history of partnering with FSU through articulation agreements,” noted Yuan. “FSU offers bachelor’s degree programs in psychology and social work that include a specialization track in addiction counseling. We plan to work closely with FSU so that students who wish to go on for a four-year degree in this field have a practical local option.”