Assemblymember Ward’s Bill to Increase Substance Use Disorder Counselor Workforce Heads to Senate

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO,CA) – California has a shortage of nearly 4,000 substance use disorder counselors needed to meet the demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In an effort to address this critical shortage, Assemblymember Chris Ward introduced AB 1860 to streamline the graduating requirements for students on track to enter the career field. Today, the bill passed with bipartisan support on the Assembly Floor and now heads to the State Senate for action.

“This bill will allow these students to still gain critical field experience while removing the barrier needed to get Californians the help they need so they don’t have to struggle with addiction,” said Assemblymember Ward (D-San Diego). “We need to send a clear message that recovery is not only possible, but it can begin today.”

More than 100,000 overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the opioid epidemic continues to evolve and impose a serious threat to public health, California will need to greatly expand the substance use disorder treatment counselor workforce to match the need.

Under current state law, graduate student interns are required to be placed in a field program to gain experience. However, students can only be placed in programs that meet strict oversight standards and supervision. AB 1860 will remove the requirement for graduate students interns who are pursuing a career in psychology, marriage and family therapy, social work or counseling to complete supervised hours with a certifying organization.