Shortage of addiction specialists on the Suncoast

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SARASOTA & MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - Opioid and other substance abuse addiction is a growing problem on the Suncoast, only compounded by the lack of addiction counselors.

P.J. Brooks, Vice President of First Step of Sarasota, said there are several reasons there may be challenges of getting new people to be addiction counselors.

"The pay scale is not great, which is often driven by the reimbursement rates from the state, from funders and from insurance companies," he said.

Brooks further explained that many who want to join the addiction field may have had similar experiences, and are in recovery themselves.

"Unfortunately, a lot of times they have a background or they maybe have had an arrest years and years ago, and now the state has much more strict expectations in turns of background screenings," he said. "And even individuals who've had arrests decades ago that have been on the straight and narrow have done excellent things don't qualify and have to go through a stringent process to be able to get into the field."