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Epidemic fuels growth in behavioral health, counseling sectors


The federal government predicts large employment gains in treatment services over the next decade, and local health-care groups report significant recruitment now.

Counselors for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health totaled 260,200 workers in 2016. Government officials believe that number will jump to 320,400 in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


University of Findlay social work major Meghan Lascher works on her stimulants group project during an introductory class on substance abuse issues.

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This expected growth rate is “much faster” than the average for all jobs, suggesting an encouraging employment future, according to the bureau.

In a job outlook report, the bureau cited pursuing treatment over incarceration for drug offenses and an ongoing need to aid military veterans.

“Job prospects are expected to be very good for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, particularly for those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree,” the bureau found. “In addition, many workers leave the field after a few years and need to be replaced.”

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These workers recorded a median annual salary of $42,150 in 2016, according to the federal report.

Local officials report an escalation of treatment for opioid-related diagnoses. There is significant recruiting in turn from providers for qualified staff, said Scott Sylak, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County.

ProMedica’s hospitals assist patients with substance issues in the medical psychiatric units. They also partner with Arrowhead Behavioral Health and Harbor Behavioral Health for outpatient services, according to a statement from a hospital spokesman.

“With the current opioid epidemic, there is a need for additional services and support in the community,” according to the statement.

There is absolutely a work force demand across the spectrum, from physicians to nurse practitioners, Unison Health President Jeff De Lay said.

In the Toledo market, there are additional services and a limited number of trained professionals. Increased demand and competition leads to more generous packages, Mr. De Lay said.

At Unison, the new-hire orientation has doubled from monthly to every two weeks. The organization recently hired 20 full-time employees for its residential detox program, Mr. De Lay said.

This increased demand leads to a review of the overall benefit package in recruitment, said Deb Flores, the Zepf Center’s acting chief executive officer.

Entry-level social workers and those trained in chemical dependency or psychiatry are among those in demand, she said.

“Competition is challenging. There are lots of opportunities for people with those credentials in this community, whether it’s a hospital setting, outpatient clinic,” Ms. Flores said.

Contact Ryan Dunn at, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @RDunnBlade.

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