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Historic Changes Come and Continue to Come to the Addiction Profession

November 1, 2010
by Don P. Osborn, MS, MA, MAC, LMHC, President of NAADAC
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We Enter a New Era in the Addiction Profession
Don P. Osborn, MS, MA, MAC, LMHC, President of NAADAC
Don P. Osborn, MS, MA, MAC, LMHC, President of NAADAC

The title I almost chose for this article was a variation on a familiar phrase: “It's not your father's addiction profession anymore.” Events from the recent National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD) in Washington, D.C., ushered in a new era for the addiction profession. Changes long talked about for the addiction profession are finally here.

National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD)

The NCAD conference was historic in that for the first time several entities, organizations and stakeholders in the addiction profession came together to form the conference. The annual Advocacy in Action meetings with Congress were also incorporated in the national conference. The result was nearly 1,000 attendees coming together to learn about best practices and celebrate the profession. The conference was due to collaboration of the Vendome Group (the publisher of Addiction Professional and Behavioral Healthcare magazines) and NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, which was the anchor association of the conference. Next year's conference is already scheduled for September 17-21, 2011, in San Diego, Calif., (check the calendar for information on the call for presentations) followed by Orlando, Fla., in 2012.

A National Standardized Addictions Curriculum and Professional Scope of Practice

The major historical event to come out of the conference took place on September 8th at the national luncheon. On that day the new National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC) was signed into existence. The signing was met by applause, shouts, whistles and a standing ovation of the attendees. NASAC was a joint effort of a new national partnership between NAADAC and the International Coalition for Addiction Studies Education (INCASE). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) initiated a grant with NAADAC to venture forward on a national curriculum and standards for the addiction profession. This was based upon the successful curriculum pilot work and national template done here in Indiana with a grant from SAMHSA.

The NASAC was the culmination of three years of work of the National Addiction Studies and Standards Collaboration Committee (NASSCC), which I served on as Chair. The mission of the NASSCC was to gather national stakeholders of academicians, program directors, representatives of other national entities (such as the Addiction Technology Transfer Centers and SAMHSA), clinicians and individuals served to formulate a national addiction studies standardized curriculum for certificate through doctoral degree programs. Once developed, the curriculum would then be joined with a national scope of practice to be developed by the NASAC. The national scope of practice would provide guidelines for ethical practice and delivery of addiction services, workforce functions and treatment.

We are now at a time where education will direct the content of licensure, certification and testing. This will also add to developing the next generation of researchers, research, professors and supervisors for the addiction profession, and will provide states with legislative resources and workforce standards. NASAC will become the national accreditation body for addiction studies degree programs in colleges and universities that are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Healthcare Bill's Impact on Addiction Providers

NAADAC representatives met with Dr. Westley Clark, Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, a part of SAMHSA. Discussion focused on the impact that national healthcare legislation will have on addictions counseling. Dr. Clark informed NAADAC that the healthcare bill designated that the master's degree will be the designated degree level for clinical services and reimbursement in addictions. He also stated that the “transition [to that degree] is now.” In this instance degrees and course work granted only from institutions that are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and relevant to clinical delivery as designated by proof of course transcript, are the degrees to be considered. Exceptions to this are in the areas of faith-based services and residential treatment community operations.

There is also the acknowledgment that the outcome of the upcoming fall election could change the healthcare bill. The Republican victory could cloud the future of the healthcare legislation. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court may decide the 21 state lawsuits questioning the constitutionality of the bill. Regardless of the legislative changes ahead, Dr. Clark noted the master's degree will still remain as the degree of service.

To state it clearly and unequivocally, the new standard of practice in the addiction profession will be a master's degree, beginning January 1, 2014.


There are some exciting things in development at NAADAC related to NAADAC being the premier Addictions Professionals Organization. A new organizational model was brought about by the Executive Committee known as the Four Pillars of NAADAC. I also want to note other national organizations have expressed interest to now come and join under the “NAADAC Umbrella.” The NAADAC Board of Directors is enthusiastic about these opportunities and more news will follow.