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             POLICY REPORT


Alcoholism and substance abuse providers in New York State continue to face a workforce crisis. Qualified
staff who are essential to ensuring quality care and compliance with state standards are leaving the field at a rate
that dramatically exceeds the rate of entry into the field.

The state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has long suspected that the underlying
factors contributing to this trend are:

    ! A pool of aging professionals, many of whom are now reaching retirement age;
    ! Lack of career advancement opportunities; and
    ! Inadequate salary/compensation levels, which younger workers find unappealing and current workers
      find insufficient.

Consequently, staff turnover in programs continues to be a problem, and providers statewide report having a
difficult time filling vacancies, particularly with Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselors

The Initiative

As a first step in addressing these issues, OASAS established the Bureau of Workforce Development in January
2001 to revitalize the agency’s efforts to promote professionalism in the field of addictions and to implement
policies that would counteract the disturbing trend in the declining number of qualified workers in New York.

The Bureau of Workforce Development was charged with:

    ! Managing the state’s credentialing process for counselors and prevention practitioners
    ! Developing and conducting training programs for addictions professionals
    ! Identifying and implementing workforce strategies that would help make the addictions field a more
      attractive and viable career option for entry-level professionals.
The Strategies

The workforce strategies developed by the bureau began with a three-pronged needs assessment approach,
which served as the foundation for the development of a “Comprehensive Workforce Development Plan for
New York State.”


   a) Workforce Development Recruitment and Retention Survey – designed to obtain quantitative workforce
      data from alcoholism and substance abuse treatment and prevention providers. Some highlights of the
      survey results include:

   b) Direct Care Staff Survey – in September/October 2001, OASAS issued this survey to licensed
      treatment programs in order to obtain system-wide data to document staffing problems and current staff
      salary ranges.

   c) Regional Workforce Development Focus Groups – OASAS organized a series of focus groups with the
      purpose of (1) identifying the major concerns of program managers and front-line staff regard alcohol
      and other drug staff recruitment, retention and professional development; (2) determining what
      recruitment and retention strategies have worked both locally and statewide, as well as those strategies
      that have not worked; and (3) soliciting recommendations that will help guide OASAS in developing
      and implementing a comprehensive workforce development plan for the field. In June 2002, the findings
      and recommendations made by the representatives in the focus groups were issued in a report called
      The Addictions Profession: A Workforce in Crisis.

        The feedback and information resulting from the focus groups and the two surveys will provide the
        foundation for OASAS, along with other groups, to move forward with a comprehensive plan for
        addressing the workforce needs of the addictions field.


   a) Task Force on Workforce Development - established to develop a comprehensive workforce
      development plan that would incorporate action steps addressing the 19 recommendations made by the
      focus groups. Five work groups were convened to develop action plans to address the
      recommendations in the primary areas identified by the focus groups: compensation/benefits,
      administrative relief, marketing, credentialing/licensure, organizational culture/best practices.

        Notwithstanding the recommendations made by the focus groups, OASAS has been actively pursuing a
        number of workforce development initiatives, including:

   b)   Re-engineering of Credentialing Process;
   c)   Analysis of Candidate Performance in the CASAC Written Examination Categories;
   d)   CASAC Item Writing Workshops;
   e)   Efforts to Enhance Candidate Performance on the Case Presentation Method Oral Examination;
   f)   Expanded Training Opportunities.

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