About 40 percent of drug-abuse counselors are in recovery themselves, says the Daytona Beach (Fl.) News-Journal. Others get into the field because of a family member who abused drugs. The demand for services is growing, yet staff turnover is high, with a lack of funding for salaries and people turning to other fields to make a better living. ”I don’t know that we are completely at a crisis stage yet, but we have to pay attention to the fact that we have a number of things converging on us,” said Pamela Waters of the Southern Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center, which trains addiction counselors. She is on a statewide committee looking at needs of counselors.
The workforce development committee, made up of 25 people from state and substance abuse agencies, hopes to make a recommendation to the legislature next year to increase funding for everything from salaries to recruitment. The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association says that agencies contracted by the state to provide treatment services have not received a cost-of-living increase for their employees in more than 10 years. Salaries are low, while other expenses have gone up. The starting salary for counselors and case managers is about $23,000, compared to about $31,000 for teachers. ”We’re always at the bottom of the pecking order because as much money as possible needs to go to the service system,” said Randy Croy, 55, who started in the field in 1974. One treatment center, Serenity House, had a turnover in the past year of about 40 percent — mainly in counselor aides and monitors who work weekend and night shifts.