ARLINGTON, Texas — Roy Carmona has been a licensed chemical dependency counselor in Texas for nearly four decades.

“I’ve been in the field of counseling for 39 years,” said Carmona.

What You Need To Know

  • Texas currently has only 375 fully licensed chemical dependency counselors 

  • UT-Arlington has designed its Substance Use and Treatment program to combat the high rate of burnout in the field

  • Roy Carmona, a dependency counselor and recovering addict, says the problem is worsening, with prescription pain medication use frequently leading to long-term addiction 

That is significant because most counselors like him only last a couple of years in the field, but Carmona says he will not leave as long as someone needs help pulling themselves out of the dark place drugs and alcohol can put them in. He knows just how hard that is. 

“I’m a recovering alcoholic and drug addict myself. I’ve been clean and sober since Dec. 23, 1981,” he said. 

It is the same reason Mandy Forbes, a former intern of Carmona, decided to enroll at UT-Arlington to obtain a Bachelor’s of Science in Substance Use and Treatment. 

“It’s what the world needs and unfortunately I don’t think that’s gonna change,” said Forbes, who plans on teaching substance use treatment classes in the future. 

As someone who has been in recovery for 20 years, she has the same passion her mentor does for paying it forward.

“If my story can keep someone from going down that path, you know, that’s my goal,” she said.

There are currently only 375 fully licensed professionals in Texas. For Tarrant County, that means only 17.5 for every 100,000 people. 

Carmona says the problem is only getting worse. 

“It just happens. The person begins to experiment, then begins to use excessively. Some people get hurt. They begin to take medication and all of a sudden they’re addicted to pain medication," said Carmona. 

UT-Arlington leaders hope a more thorough approach will help change more lives. 

"We’re understanding how this works biologically, psychologically, socially and the most effective ways to treat and the most unique and affirming ways to name these issues,” said UT-Arlington’s Social Work Director of Undergraduate Programs, Karen Magruder. 

One focus is preparing tomorrow’s professionals to prevent burnout, one of the main causes of the field’s high turnover rate. 

“It’s going to help them to maintain that balance while they’re a student as well as when they’re a professional,” said Magruder.

The program serves as a path to build long-term substance use solutions for generations to come. 

"The more people we can get in to help, the better chance other people have,” said Carmona. 

September is National Recovery Month, resources are available for anyone struggling with substance use and addiction: