One of the more unique educational programs St. Joseph’s provides is the Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor Core Curriculum Training program at the nearby Federal Correctional Institution in Ray Brook.
The CASAC 350, so named for the 350 hours of instruction required for credentialing, is an OASAS-certified education training program in which St. Joseph’s credentialed instructors teach courses approved by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to inmates and which satisfies the educational requirements for State certification.
St. Joseph’s program provides selected inmates desiring to become addiction treatment counselors upon their release certification for both direct patient care and supervisory positions in the area of substance abuse and addiction including assessment, counseling, case management, client, family and community education, and professional responsibility.
Entrance into St. Joseph’s program is selective and includes the requirement of a high school diploma, a written essay reflecting the prospective student’s desire to enter the field, and an extended period of good behavior.
The commitment and enthusiasm we see are exemplary,” says program director, Robin Gay. “The students are highly engaged and responsive to the curriculum.” This level of interest is, in part, reflected by test scores typically ranging from 80 to 100 percent.
An average of 25 students participates each year with the program taking place from October to June, and meeting four times each week from 5:00 until 8:00 at night.
“We witness great personal growth in the inmates throughout the course,” Robin notes. “And we’re told by the FCI staff that they can pick out those inmates who have gone through the program due to the students’ improved outlook.”
Due to Federal regulations it is difficult to track how many students pursue becoming addiction counselors upon their release, but as Robin points out, “The CASAC 350 program provides our students with the professional training and ethical knowledge base to provide alcoholism and substance abuse counseling in a progressive and growing field.”
While the CASAC 350 program is not conducted in a typical educational environment, graduation ceremony provides for a very meaningful event. “Many of the inmates have never had the experience of a formal graduation,’ Robin says. “The credentialing is similar to an Associates’ Degree, and having the opportunity to wear a cap and gown and have graduation pictures sent to their families is rewarding for our students and for the St. Joseph’s staff who taught them.”