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Opioid crisis sparks “strike and rewrite” of state’s licensing rules

In what was deemed an emergency action, Vermont Governor Phil Scott announced in October a “strike and rewrite” initiative to address the opioid crisis by slimming down licensing rules for counselors. A special task force, formed to take quick action to tackle the high level of addiction to opioids in the state, had concluded that some entry requirements for professionals to counsel substance abusers were part of the problem.

The governor’s initiative targets entry regulations for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, Apprentice Addiction Counselors, and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, collectively classified as the state’s substance use disorder workforce.

Scott cited the need for the state to expand the resources available to treat opiate addiction and abuse beyond current law enforcement staffing and social service providers as a rationale for the deregulatory move. “Those addicted to opiates must be afforded adequate and effective treatment opportunities, the governor said. Among multiple components of the “strike and rewrite” initiative are measures to:

  • Ease a bottleneck for applicants by allowing not only alcohol and substance abuse counselors but also other qualified providers (social workers, marriage and family therapists, etc.) to serve as supervisors of applicants’ clinical training;
  • Allow apprentice addiction counselors to remain apprentices indefinitely rather than be limited to only two examinations;
  • Replace a “complex and prescriptive continuing education scheme” with a relevance test;
  • Recognize U.S. service members’ relevant military training;
  • Reduce the number of substance use disorder (SUD)-specific education hours required for counselors from 300 to 270, in line with national standards;
  • Allow other mental health professionals (e.g., psychologists and social workers) with one year of substance abuse counseling experience to test directly into a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors license; and
  • Trim thirty pages of administrative regulations down to ten pages.