The debate continues as to whether or not the funds are succeeding at putting Americans back to work.
While I can’t speak for the whole country, I can state that at least some of the money from Washington has created new job opportunities in New York State.
The agency I work for, Outreach, a well-respected drug and alcohol treatment agency, received funds from the federal government allocated to the state Labor Department and reallocated to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. We are using it to train new Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselors (CASAC). CASACs, who work in community treatment programs or hospitals, provide desperately needed services for people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.
It is money well spent and it will create jobs.
The health and social problems that alcohol and substance abuse have on our families, our community, our nation and, sometimes, ourselves, are overwhelming. We see the effects in the high school dropouts who can’t find decent-paying jobs and turn to addiction for momentary diversion. We see them in the families torn apart because of drug use and in the countless crimes committed to buy drugs and alcohol.
Those who become CASAC counselors join a group of professionals who support their own families and contribute to the rehabilitation of countless addiction clients.
The Outreach Training Institute (OTI) is the largest trainer of CASAC counselors in New York State, providing the 350 hours of training required to become credentialed drug and alcohol counselors. Our graduates work directly with clients and often become treatment program managers and directors.
Stimulus funding provided scholarships for 17 students who met the requirements established by state government agencies, including the stipulation that they be unemployed or under-employed. These students, who were out of work not for lack of ambition, but because of a sluggish economy and increased competition, are now studying and well on their way to becoming agents of change for those battling addictive behaviors. Without the scholarships, they may have still been struggling to find a job. Now, they will have the skills needed to make a positive contribution to society.
One such person, Bernice, a 57-year-old woman, spent the last 15 years teaching in two parochial schools in New York City.
Last June, her school shut it doors for the last time; Bernice was unemployed. She immediately started searching for another position. But, after looking in the school systems, she was faced with a terrible, but not uncommon, dilemma - what should an individual, who has great work experience and a graduate degree, do when she cannot find a job in her chosen profession?
Bernice started to explore other careers where her skills were transferable and came across OTI. After a short application process, Bernice started the CASAC program this past November and is well on her way to a new calling.
Her 16 fellow students have similar stories. They include a former Veterinarian, who cared for animals for 13 years, a driver who delivered packages for DHL, and a customer service worker at a publishing firm.
Have these stimulus funds been used wisely and effectively? In the case of those allocated to OTI, the answer is a resounding yes. Not only have a number of worthy individuals found a new profession, but they have also been able to put their varied and useful set of skills to work, while learning new ones, to achieve success. Moreover, they will now help others who will become productive and tax-paying citizens. Stimulus funds put to good use indeed!
David Greenberg is coordinator of Student Placement Services at Outreach Training Institute, with offices in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.