An investigation by the California Senate has revealed that drug and alcohol counselors in the state are not required to undergo background checks and found that 23 sex offenders were permitted to work as rehab counselors, with the actual number probably higher. The report released in May 2013 – ‘Suspect Treatment: State’s lack of scrutiny allows unscreened sex offenders and unethical counselors to treat addicts’ – was prepared by researcher John Hill for the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes and is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/141335423/051313-Suspect-Treatment.
The report investigated the state’s system for overseeing 36,000 registered or certified substance abuse counselors and found 23 sex offenders – mostly rapists and child molesters – working as drug and alcohol counselors. Since the researcher Hill was only able to cross-check databases for unusual names, the actual number may be higher. The investigation found a man named “J.M.” who served jail time for sex crimes against teenaged girls was still able to be a registered drug and alcohol counselor after his release. California and Pennsylvania are the only states that do not require background checks for drug and alcohol counselors.
At the conclusion of the report, the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes recommends changes to state’s system for credentialing counselors that include requiring “fingerprint-based criminal background checks for anyone working as a counselor” that would include “rap-back” notifications of subsequent convictions that occurs with other health care professionals. The state could also “establish guidelines for assessing criminal histories” of counselors and “set up an advisory panel of experts from within the treatment industry to evaluate and make recommendations on individual cases.”
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