California Senate Details Lax Oversight of Drug, Alcohol Counselors
Lapses in oversight at the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs have allowed individuals with substance misuse problems and criminal records to become certified drug and alcohol counselors, according to a report by the state Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports (Miller, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 5/13).
Unlike most large states, California does not require criminal or background checks to certify such counselors.
ADP also does not track arrests or convictions of counselors that occur after certification (Van Oot, Sacramento Bee, 5/13).
According to the report, some individuals committed crimes while authorized to work as counselors, including a woman with a history of theft convictions who stole $55,000 from a client and a man who was imprisoned for drug possession for one-third of the time he was certified as a counselor (Sacramento Bee, 5/13).
In addition, the report identified at least 23 registered sex offenders who were certified as counselors (Van Oot, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 5/13).
The report stated that such individuals "are considered dangerous even after they have served their time," adding, "Those who work as drug and alcohol counselors enter a field that relies to an unusual degree of trust -- and honoring of boundaries -- between counselor and client" (Sacramento Bee, 5/13).
The report recommended that lawmakers consider making significant changes to counselor oversight processes before July, when ADP is scheduled to be dismantled. The Department of Health Care Services will absorb ADP's responsibilities at that time.
According to the report, lawmakers should:
- Create a centralized database to flag people with high-risk backgrounds who seek to become counselors (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 5/13); and
- Establish an independent panel to consult on counselor eligibility (Sacramento Bee, 5/13).