The counselor certification unit of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals has traditionally sought to assist the process of allowing more state-certified addiction counselors to obtain its national professional credential. Now, in an offer that began this week and will extend through September, the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCC AP) will allow any professionals who received a passing NCC AP test score when they pursued their state-based credential to qualify for its national credential, no matter how long ago they took the test.
NCC AP sees the offer, available from April 1-Sept. 30, as helping to address substance use treatment workforce shortages as federal officials project a soaring need for addiction professionals and as insurers look to recognize more qualified providers in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) era.
“Third-party reimbursers desire methods that clearly articulate the various levels of credentials and the acronyms for credentials and licenses—in other words, a national set of credentials,” says Kathryn Benson, NCAC II, LADC, chair of the NCC AP. “Anyone holding the national credential must have met the same standards and have one identifiable acronym for the credential held (NCAC I, NCAC II, MAC) no matter what state or territory they live in.”
NAADAC's counselor certification department announced in March that during this limited time period it would waive the requirement that all national credential applications be submitted within four years of receiving a passing NCC AP test score. Some states use the NCC AP exam as their test for state certification, but professionals often do not follow through on obtaining a national certification at the time they become certified or licensed at the state level.
Benson explains, “Human nature is to focus more on our immediate need, i.e., state credentialing, and it sometimes takes more professional experience and potential career opportunities for an individual to appreciate the need/benefit of also holding a national credential.”
She adds, “Some intend to apply, become distracted by their work duties providing clinical care and then time passes, and they simply forget.”
Timing of offer
An expected influx of patients with substance use treatment needs as a result of the ACA may start creating an added sense of urgency for clinical professionals to bolster their credentials, in what promises to be a more insurance-driven service system. NAADAC and the NCC AP cite the U.S. Department of Labor's projection of a 32% increase in the need for qualified substance use disorder treatment professionals from 2012-2020.
NCC AP officials say the organization recently received a request from one state as to whether all of its NCC AP-tested professionals could obtain the national credential in order to become eligible for Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) status under U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. That prompted NCC AP simply to extend its offer to all state candidates for the national credential.
Benson mentions another potential motivation for some longtime addiction professionals to want to pursue the national credential now. “Another reason for this offer is that due to the aging of our professionals and their changing family commitments, many of our professionals wish to move to another area than the state in which they received their credential,” she says. “Obtaining a nationally recognized credential helps to achieve that goal.”
To qualify under this offer, applicants must be able to document their NCC AP test score, must have an active state credential, and must be an actively practicing professional in the substance use treatment field or a related discipline.