Pubdate: Sat, 02 Mar 2002
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Los Angeles Times
Author: Lisa Leff, Special To The Times
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Education: Interest Is Booming Since Changes In State Law. Nearly All 
Trainees Are In Recovery Or Have A Relative With A Dependency Problem.

Oxnard College's Intervention and Recovery class is an eclectic group--from 
an elegantly dressed Ojai mother who has lost a daughter to heroin to 
ex-gang members from La Colonia and reformed meth dealers.

They are all studying to become certified drug and alcohol counselors 
through the addictive disorders program--one of the state's oldest 
college-based training grounds for chemical dependency professionals.

"You have everybody, all the way from 17- or 18-year-olds up to 
grandparents. You have your [recovering] alcoholics or drug addicts--the 
ones who got themselves together before they had to go to prison--and you 
have a lot of parolees in the room," said student Kris Giles, 33, of 
Newbury Park. "We are all on the same level." Spurred by statewide efforts 
to raise standards for drug counselors and the passage of Proposition 36, 
which mandated treatment over jail time for certain low-level drug 
offenders, enrollment in this and similar programs at 26 other community 
colleges has exploded. This semester, Oxnard's program has more than 400 
students, compared with 275 a year ago.

Nearly all the students are in recovery or have a family member with a drug 
or alcohol problem, said William Shilley, 73, a former priest turned family 
therapist who founded the program in 1981. To become certified, students 
must complete 720 hours--about two years of course work--and 250 hours of 
field experience.

For most of the students, enrolling in an academic program with a fixed 
schedule is a huge step. Many have histories that include childhood sexual 
abuse, domestic violence, prostitution or addiction. They have limited 
education and struggle with financial difficulties.

"They are all walking miracles because they have been through an awful lot 
and they have done one of the most difficult things to do in life, which is 
change their lifestyle," Shilley said.

Many program alumni now hold leadership positions at alcohol and drug rehab 
facilities in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties.

Shilley teaches most of the 19 courses in the Oxnard College program's 
curriculum. As a founding member of the California Assn. for Alcohol"Drug 
Educators, he also travels around the state setting up continuing education 
courses, lobbying lawmakers and advising drug and alcohol treatment programs.

"Bill is the professional in the state," said association President Angela 
Stocker, director of the College of San Mateo's addictive disorders 
program. "He has done more to raise the standards for counselors than any 
one person."

Shilley's students see him as a mentor and compassionate father figure.

"He looks for the best in everyone and makes them feel like he respects 
them and cares personally about them," said Deborah Goldberg of Westlake 
Village, who with her husband, Leonard, were Shilley students a decade ago 
when their daughter was using drugs.

With Shilley's help, the Goldbergs established Visions for Recovery, a 
nonprofit group that raises money for alcohol and drug prevention programs.

Shilley's students say they attend the program as a way to make up for the 
years and relationships they lost to their addictions.

"It blows me away that I have so much knowledge from my personal research 
that I can help someone else," said Elizabeth Humphrey, 38, who has been 
sober for three years and enrolled in the program last fall. "The best 
counselors are people in recovery because we already know the games, we 
know the manipulation, and we know the conning. We can't be fooled."

Shilley estimates that about half his students end up completing the 
program. Some decide that drug counseling does not pay enough and pursue 
other careers. Others leave when they have a relapse.

A few find that their pasts catch up with them. This semester, for example, 
two students dropped out because they were sent to jail.

But many find the strength to continue. One is the mother of a former pupil 
who couldn't get off heroin. The Ojai woman said she has not seen her 
23-year-old daughter since November and doesn't know where she is, but 
thinks using her child's old textbooks and sitting in the same classroom 
she once did gives her hope.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom