More opioid treatment centers opening as workforce faces record low, work underway to close the gap

Addiction treatment worker shortage

Addiction treatment worker shortage

As more and more opioid treatment centers open to try and end the opioid epidemic, state health officials worry about the workforce keeping up.

Just this week, near West Broadway and Emerson Avenues in north Minneapolis, a new opioid use treatment facility opened its doors.

“[We’re] super excited to be here to support the community as best we can,” Jesus Godinez, operations director for Community Medical Services‘ (CMS) new Minneapolis location, said.

“It’s needed work, it’s important work, it’s misunderstood work, but we’re here to do it,” he added.

Open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., CMS says its door is open for all community members, no matter the income level or health insurance status. It also hopes to open a similar center in Roseville within the month.

It’s not the only opioid treatment center to open in the city recently. In October, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS shared about RS EDEN’s new withdrawal management services.

RELATED: ‘First-of-its-kind’ treatment in MN making immediate impact on opioid epidemic

The new treatment options are opening at a time when part of the workforce that will help those in need is at an all-time low. In a statement, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) said the two programs are “innovative and aimed to close healthcare system gaps,” but added their concerns:

The workforce shortages among licensed alcohol and drug counselors are as significant as we’ve seen. We could even anticipate new facilities running into some hiring difficulties. There’s not enough staff to meet the levels of need.

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), there are 507 vacancies for substance abuse and behavioral disorders counselors — DEED writing that is “the highest we’ve ever seen.”

There is currently work happening to close that gap.

“The opioid crisis continues to be challenging for our state,” Willie Pearl Evans, MDH’s prevention program administrator, said.

Along with supporting the department’s harm reduction efforts, Evans is also directly connected to its ‘peer recovery specialist’ training. She says MDH partners with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and with recovery centers throughout the state to give people in recovery tools to work in the field.

“Embedding peer recovery specialists into some of these outpatient treatment programs can be a pathway to closing that employment gap,” Evans added.

For Godinez and his team in Minneapolis, he said they have two peer support specialists helping them start to heal.

“Peer support specialists are vital in the recovery process,” Godinez said.

He also adds that their workforce will be key in moving forward to make sure they can fulfill their mission.

“Making it a good culture in the clinic, making sure that people understand the work that they are doing and how they make an impact on their community,” Godinez said.

To help with the workforce shortage, just last month DEED rolled out its ‘Drive for 5 Workforce Initiative’ where the state will partner with job development institutions to start or expand job training programs, focusing on five specific high-demand fields — including caring professions.

Learn more about how CMS’ Minneapolis location can help you here.