Workforce Survey Outlines Strengths, Challenges in Reducing Substance Misuse in Vermont
Windsor – In June 2020 Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center (MAHHC) and The Collaborative published survey results of 89 substance misuse prevention workers in Vermont and bordering states New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York.
In 2019 MAHHC was awarded a Prevention Network Grant from the Vermont Department of Health and is in a consortium agreement with The Collaborative to carry out the grant. Their recent workforce survey is part of an initiative to elevate substance misuse prevention as a profession and a field. Such a change in perception is key to the organizations’ long-term goal of reducing substance misuse by all ages through building regional prevention capacity and infrastructure.
The state of Vermont is one of the top five states with the highest rates of substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder in the United States. The state’s substance misuse prevention programs and services focus on bringing together community partners (e.g. schools, law enforcement, health care providers, parents and youth) to educate and develop strategies to prevent the misuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. A strong prevention workforce is essential in addressing such a multilayered approach to a complex public health issue. The respondents to the MAHHC/Collaborative workforce survey held various roles within the prevention profession, ranging from project coordinators to outreach workers to recovery coaches.
The survey yielded key findings. On the positive side, the vast majority of respondents reported a strong sense of purpose in their work. Respondents identified two of the top five most satisfying aspects of their job to be helping others (92.1%) and meeting new people in the community (66.3%). A high number (70 percent) of respondents identified work/life balance as an asset.
In terms of challenges within the workforce, the survey showed that Vermont prevention workers earned a lower salary, in general, compared to peers in neighboring states, and were less likely to have a professional certification or license. Of individuals who indicated they planned to leave their position in the next three years, 14.7 percent stated their departure was related to an end of funding for their program or position.
The most important challenge highlighted by the survey was that, although the majority of respondents mentioned the concept of “keeping a community informed and safe,” not two out of the 89 people who completed the survey provided the same definition for prevention when asked.
In addition to creating a solid definition of substance misuse prevention, MAHHC and The Collaborative, through the Prevention Network Grant, will find solutions to the challenges of salary, certification, and sustainability. Such steps will help the public understand the important role of the workforce, elevate the field in Vermont and beyond, and ultimately—and most importantly—reduce the physical, emotional, and economic toll of substance misuse in Vermont.
To read the full survey report, visit www.greenpeakalliance.org.