Help Wanted: Insufficient Substance Abuse Counselors – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

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Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneJocksana Corona, is a Certified Drug and Alcohol Advisor for OnTrack Rogue Valley.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Jocksana Corona is Addiction and Alcoholism Counselor for OnTrack Rogue Valley.

OnTrack offers free and paid training

Jocksana Corona never thought she would become an addiction counselor.

Her parents struggled with addiction as a child, and she wanted to leave this world.

When she first started taking college courses for a career in social services, Corona recalled, “I remember one of the first things I said was, ‘I know an area where I do. will never work. And this is the area that really brings me joy. This is the area where I really feel like making a difference.

Corona said her college classes taught her to see addiction as a treatable and manageable condition, like diabetes.

“It opened my mind to understand addiction. I found more compassion, ”she said.

Corona is now a Certified Drug and Alcohol Advisor for OnTrack Rogue Valley. Fluent in Spanish and English, she assists clients in Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties.

The community is in desperate need of more addiction counselors, including those who are bilingual.

Starting this fall, OnTrack is offering free in-class and on-the-job training to become an addiction counselor. Students in the program will be paid while they learn.

The program is open to people with and without a university degree, young adults looking to train for a career, and those with experience looking for a transition to difficult but meaningful work.

OnTrack won a federal grant of $ 2.2 million over four years to launch the training and certification program.

Southern Oregon and the country face a shortage of mental health workers, including those specializing in addiction treatment.

OnTrack has a 40% vacancy rate for jobs in which staff members work directly with people in its residential addiction treatment centers, said OnTrack executive director Sommer Wolcott.

“We are not receiving candidates for these positions,” she said. “As a result, we have had to reduce access to our residential programs on several occasions and limit the number of clients we can serve, even though we have empty beds.”

OnTrack has a waiting list of 100 people for its residential drug treatment programs, Wolcott said.

Thanks to the free OnTrack training program, she said, people can start a new career without going to college and without going into debt on a student loan.

Corona said she juggles going to college, working, raising her family, and rushing in time for internships to enter the field.

OnTrack’s accelerated program provides a smoother path.

Corona encourages people to think about entering the field, especially those who are bilingual and understand Latino culture.

Born in Mexico and raised in the United States, Corona said alcohol is considered a natural part of weddings, baby shower, birthdays, funerals and other events. Many Latinos don’t think of alcohol as a drug and avoid people who develop alcohol problems.

“Substance use is more common in our community than our community would like to recognize,” Corona said.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Jocksana Corona helps people with addictions as an addiction and alcohol counselor for OnTrack Rogue Valley.

She said her mother got rid of the addiction years ago. Corona still sees the hardships her mom and other family members endured when helping OnTrack customers.

Chris Tyler became a drug and alcohol counselor through a different route. It celebrates seven years of being clean and sober.

A counselor from OnTrack’s Daddy Program for Fathers and Their Children noticed Tyler’s compassionate and energetic personality and encouraged him to become a support staff member.

OnTrack then provided training for Tyler to become a recovery advisor and mentor.

Prior to securing the $ 2.2 million federal grant, OnTrack was able to train about five people per year. Now he hopes to enroll and train 30 people per year to become certified alcohol and drug counselors, trained mental health associates, and peer support specialists.

Training to become a certified peer support specialist takes three months, while training to become a certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor takes approximately 18 months.

Becoming a Qualified Mental Health Associate requires a combination of three years of training and experience. People who join the training program will complete at different times depending on their previous experience, according to OnTrack.

Interns will be placed in OnTrack’s residential, ambulatory or transitional care centers, or community partner sites such as the Birch Grove Health Center in La Clinica.

Tyler said compassion is the key to being a good addiction counselor.

“It really starts with having a good heart and being a compassionate person and putting yourself in the other’s shoes,” he said. “Addiction can be very painful and uncomfortable. You have to be prepared to be vulnerable with customers.

Some people who have struggled with drug addiction fear that they will relapse if they step into the field and hear about alcohol and drugs all day long.

Tyler said people can’t neglect their own recovery while helping others tackle addiction. It is essential to continue to attend group meetings for those in recovery and to talk to those who support them.

He said people in recovery can serve as role models to show others that life after addiction is possible – and good.

“There is a need. A lot of people have a story to tell that will save someone’s life. You have something to give,” Tyler said.

He said the best part of his job is watching people transform as they battle addiction and rebuild their lives. They find work, find apartments or reunite with their children who have had to be placed in foster care or live with relatives. The light returns to their eyes.

“They start to smile again. There is nothing better than this feeling, ”said Tyler.

He said counselors need to practice self-care to stay mentally and physically healthy.

Tyler rides his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, spends time with his family, plays with dogs, tours the coast, watches movies, and finds other enjoyable activities to distract from work, recharge and keep his feet on the ground.

He said people don’t have to be dependent themselves to be good counselors. Everyone has gone through struggles and traumatic experiences that can make them more compassionate.

Marcia Sandoval hasn’t struggled with drug addiction, but it was an addiction and alcohol counselor who became the Josephine County Ambulatory Care Program Manager for OnTrack.

When she was still an intern, she heard stories from clients about their struggles.

“I started to understand what recovery is,” said Sandoval. “I was able to empathize, feel their struggle and see the treatment we are providing working. They may say, “You haven’t walked in my shoes. But I have experience with what works and what doesn’t.

She said addiction counselors need to be flexible, compassionate, have thick skin, and don’t take things personally.

Wolcott, executive director of OnTrack, said the training will help people learn to manage work and interact with customers. Interns will work alongside experienced professionals and learn how to help clients from different backgrounds who have likely all experienced trauma.

“If a person reacts, assume they are suffering from anxiety or have had past experiences, rather than assuming that they are not complying or that this is voluntary behavior,” he said. Wolcott said. “Suppose people are doing their best – and something gets in their way. “

She said that good addiction counselors are compassionate, ready to learn and grow, dedicated, and have enough self-awareness to realize that they have a personal reaction to a situation and should take a step back.

Lori Brock Stewart, Addiction Counselor and Program Manager for the Dad’s Program, attended the Mom’s Program residential program 18 years ago while struggling with addiction.

She received on-the-job training through OnTrack.

“I wanted to know more about addiction and why the brain works the way it does and why people continue to use it despite the negative consequences,” said Brock Stewart.

She said she now understands the obsessive-compulsive aspect of addiction. If people don’t address this aspect, they might conquer drug and alcohol addiction, but turn to gambling, compulsive shopping and overspending, unhealthy relationships or other destructive behaviors.

Brock Stewart said working in drug treatment isn’t easy.

“It’s not for the faint of heart. Sometimes you see difficult things in this career. A mom might hand you her brand new baby and tell you that she isn’t ready to be a parent. You have to honor his choice. She does what’s best for the child, ”said Brock Stewart.

But she said the need for addiction counselors is great. All of the drug treatment organizations in Rogue Valley have vacancies, she said.

Corona said people should listen to their own hearts and think about moving forward to help.

“If something tells you, ‘Hey, give it a try,’ then trust that inner voice,” she said.

For more information on OnTrack Peer and Counselor Education Program, known as On-PACE, see ontrackroguevalley.org or call 541-200-2402.

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.


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