(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Walker Sayle Unit, a substance abuse felony punishment facility, are working together to change lives and fill a need in the Texas workforce.
A report filed by the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services to the 86th Legislature showed that 1.6 million adult Texans suffer from a substance use disorder (SUD). Furthermore, Texas has only about 17 SUD care providers per 1,000 of these adults, the third lowest in the nation.
To help combat this crisis, students enrolled in TSTC’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program can work as interns and later be considered for employment at the Sayle Unit.
“It’s hard to find staff in this industry because you have to have a passion for it and it’s a lot of work,” Kemberlee Lively, program director at the Sayle Unit, said. “About 90 percent of our staff comes from TSTC because they have a hands-on knowledge base and are open to our input. These students come here and do exactly what we need them to do.”
The TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling program allows students to earn a certificate of completion or an Associate of Applied Science degree to become licensed chemical dependency counselor interns. This provides a career pathway to become licensed chemical dependency counselors.
“There is an opportunity to help those individuals who this may be their last chance for recovery,” Patty Bundick, TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling program chair and senior instructor, said. “Many students are people in recovery or have a family member who suffered from an addiction and see it as a chance to give back to society and now want to help someone else in their recovery.”
For Sayle Unit Assistant Program Director Shana Vandergriff, TSTC offered her the chance for a career and to help others.
“I recommend TSTC, for sure, because I went there. I know what the students are learning, and TSTC helped me,” Vandergriff said. “(TSTC) made it easy for me as a single mom … in recovery to get enrolled. They still are like my family to this day when I go visit,” Vandergriff said.
Vandergriff graduated in 2011 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling. She did her practicum as a student at the Sayle Unit.
Vandergriff encourages anyone who feels a calling and enjoys helping others succeed to consider the field.
“There is a huge need for people in this industry, and we are almost always hiring,” she said.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, log on to tstc.edu.