Substance abuse treatment vs. prevention, TC3 to now offer credentials in both

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DRYDEN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — For over 20 years, Tompkins Cortland Community College has helped students prepare for drug and alcohol counseling with a substance treatment credential. 

Soon, two new prevention credentials will be added to the substance abuse coursework. The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports authorized the college to offer the following: Credentialed Prevention Professional (CPP) and Credentialed Prevention Specialist (CPS). 

The prevention credentials will focus more on education and community outreach to help combat drug and alcohol use, whereas the current treatment coursework focuses on helping people who already have a problem.

Professor Joseph Smith, Program Chair of the Chemical Dependency Counseling Program, says that there is an increased need for prevention workers across the state because of increased addiction rates, which he attributes somewhat to the pandemic. 

“One of the things we know with the pandemic is it has caused a massive upswing in terms of mental health problems,” he said. “Along with that, we’ve seen a much greater rate of addiction as well.”

The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office issued a public safety health alert due to increasing drug overdose deaths just last week. In the week-and-a-half leading up to this announcement, the department investigated six unattended deaths, all of which were suspected drug overdoses. 

With the need for prevention professionals and specialists increasing, Smith said that he has had multiple former students show interest in coming back to TC3 to receive the new credentials. For students who have already graduated, they will only need to take one or two more courses to qualify.

“Some local employers were actually seeking individuals who are more in prevention because most people are trained in the clinical side of it. They said that they were looking for prevention workers and there were fewer and fewer prevention workers out there.”

He said they decided to offer the coursework so that students could go into either side of the field and be more well-rounded.

Ashley Ellis is a current student at TC3 pursuing a chemical dependency counseling degree. Ellis says she lost a lot of people in her life which made her get into the field.

While she is getting her degree in treatment, she says that the prevention coursework is a great addition because it brings awareness to the matter. 

“It puts people out there for educating people about substance use and what can happen if you go down that road,” she said. 

Bridget Schmidt received her Bachelor’s and Master’s from SUNY Binghamton and said she did a lot of research in healthcare delivery systems and administrative work. She started to become interested in substance use and mental healthcare.

“This credential will definitely help in terms of just boosting my knowledge on community education when it comes to substance use and mental health. I think a lot of the times, they go hand in hand,” she said.

She says it will help in her goal moving forward to work in administration and design programs to assist people in accessing treatment.

“There’s a lot of focus on clinical studies which is, of course, important, but we also need people who are learning how to design programs and run programs that are going to be beneficial to patients, how to do that community outreach and get the community engaged in substance use treatment.” 

She said that substance abuse is misunderstood and having people on the administrative side is very important.

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