The Successful Integration of Employment Services within NYS’ Chemical Dependency Treatment System

Date Issued: November 3, 2014

RECIPIENT: All OASAS Treatment Providers, Local Governmental Units (LGUs)

PURPOSE: It is the intent of this Local Service Bulletin (LSB) to inform and support existing OASAS policy in regards to the integration of vocational rehabilitation counseling, employment preparation and staffing requirements within the chemical dependency treatment setting.

BACKGROUND: OASAS is committed to the care, recovery and sustained well being of individuals with addictions, and recognizes the strong link between recovery from addiction and economic self-sufficiency (i.e. employment). Research demonstrates that an important outcome indicator in the addiction recovery process is the individual’s ability to successfully obtain, maintain and/or reintegrate into the workplace. Employment ultimately benefits the recovering individual, his/her family, the employer and the community at large.

OASAS recognizes and supports comprehensive vocational preparation activities, employment, and post-employment support services as core components of chemical dependency treatment and long-term recovery. The complete integration of vocational rehabilitation services within the treatment process improves treatment outcomes and is critical to the recovering individual’s ability to secure and maintain competitive employment which, in turn, supports recovery.

The primary responsibility of the treatment provider is to make every effort to assist the individual in addiction treatment to become fully functional. The provision of comprehensive vocational rehabilitation counseling services assesses work readiness and supports the individual’s continued recovery and the successful transition in obtaining and maintaining employment. Vocational rehabilitation services also support advancements in career development for those individuals that enter treatment already employed, or have a work history.

Because one or more vocational rehabilitation counselors cannot significantly improve employment outcomes alone, the interdisciplinary treatment team is responsible for the vocational outcomes of the provider. This commitment at all levels of staff assures program commitment to the employment goal of the individual.


  • Program Performance - It is critical to treatment and the recovery process for OASAS treatment programs to focus and/or emphasize comprehensive vocational rehabilitation (VR) counseling and job preparation services as well as the post employment support services. Therefore, programs cannot reduce or redirect vocational rehabilitation counseling and job preparation positions without the proper approval of the appropriate OASAS Program Manager.
  • Hiring qualified VR Staff and Description of Minimum Hiring Guidelines - Vocational Rehabilitation counselors perform a core function of the inter-disciplinary treatment team. In order to ensure that qualified individuals are hired by treatment providers, it is imperative that programs comply with the minimum hiring qualifications listed below for either the Vocational Director or Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. In order to meet the assigned performance targets, programs need to employ individuals who have both the requisite formal and practical experience. Effective immediately, the following requirements must be met when hiring either the Vocational Rehabilitation Administrative/ Management/Supervisory position or the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor.
    • The Vocational Rehabilitation Administrative, Management, and Supervisory position (May also be called Vocational Rehabilitation Director, Vocational Educational Coordinator or Vocational Supervisor etc.) ensures the integrity, quality and integration of the vocational and educational service agency-wide. Responsible for ensuring the quality of departmental staff's clinical practice and technical expertise provides supervision and monitors all aspects of the department’s activities. Serves as agency liaison with the community at large, helping initiate and develop resources for use by agency clients. Contributes to outreach and training activities when appropriate. In all cases preference should be given to Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC),Hiring Qualifications Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC), or Masters Degree in any counseling or psychology specialization; and Three years experience in the vocational rehabilitation counseling of substance abusers.
    • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors are part of the inter-disciplinary treatment team and are employed within alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs. They assist staff and patients in developing and implementing a comprehensive program of vocational rehabilitation services that will result in patient’s involvement in employment, skills training or education activities. They provide and/or coordinate those pre-vocational and vocational activities which will help patients develop and achieve vocational rehabilitation goals and function successfully in competitive employment. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors facilitate access to needed community vocational, via established linkages with vocational/educational service providers in the local community and refer[s] patients who are appropriate for these services.
    • Individuals employed as Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (may also be called Rehabilitation Counselors, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists, Vocational Counselors, etc.) will meet the minimum qualifications for education and experience, as described below:
    • Hiring Qualifications - Masters degree in Vocational Rehabilitation, or related field of rehabilitation psychology; or Masters degree in any counseling or psychology specialization, with one year of experience in the career counseling of clients with alcohol/substance abuse problems and/or clients from other disadvantaged populations; or Bachelor’s degree in either counseling, psychology, sociology, or otherwise related field with a minimum of two years of experience in the career counseling of clients with alcohol/substance abuse problems and/or clients from other disadvantaged populations; or Rehabilitation Counseling Masters Degree student supervised by a CRC.
    • Programs are expected to recruit and hire individuals meeting the qualifications listed above. However, if the program has made a comprehensive recruitment effort and is unable to identify a qualified individual they must obtain prior approval from the OASAS program manager to hire a less qualified individual.
    • All VR staff within the OASAS treatment provider system must adhere to the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) ( )Description of VR and Employment Guidelines. The minimal guidelines for vocational rehabilitation and employment counseling for individuals available for the vocational rehabilitation process are based on the following: An assessment of vocational and employment needs based on historical information, the results of any tests or other assessment procedures used, and counseling sessions regarding the client’s employment goals and aspirations; A specific plan, developed in conjunction with each client and appropriate treatment staff, consisting of a set of vocational rehabilitation and employment goals and appropriate methods for achieving those goals; Services, both program- and community-based, that are necessary for the attainment of the established employment and goals; and The monitoring of clients’ progress toward employment goal attainment and post employment maintenance while providing counseling and other supportive services as appropriate.

CONCLUSION: The effective integration of vocational rehabilitation services is not to focus exclusively on the outcomes of the vocational rehabilitation counseling staff, but on the outcome of the entire treatment program’s ability to engage individuals in the vocational rehabilitation process toward self sufficiency. Therefore, when evaluating vocational/employment performance, OASAS is not evaluating the individual VR counselor’s work, but the outcome of the treatment provider. This premise reinforces that Vocational Rehabilitation counseling, assessment, and goal development is not the exclusive domain of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment staff, but reflects the integration of the VR counseling process and staff within the treatment program. The complete integration of vocational rehabilitation/employment services within the treatment process improves treatment outcome and is critical to the individual’s ability to secure and maintain competitive employment which in turn supports ongoing recovery.


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