Happy New Year! As is tradition, this is a time to take stock. It’s a time to engage in conversations about making changes that, while desired, can be difficult to execute.

I’d like to start a conversation with our stakeholders regarding the treatment landscape for those afflicted by gambling disorders. As I have been leaning into this new role at NPGA, I’ve been listening to gambling disorder treatment providers as well as those focused on treating substance abuse. I’ve also been reading a good deal of the literature and research, trying to compare Minnesota’s criteria for gambling disorder treatment with other states’ best practices. From what I can determine, we have several opportunities. One is to improve the awareness and knowledge of problem gambling among substance use disorder providers, who are in a position to identify gambling addiction as a possible co-occurring behavior. Another is to develop a way of assessing the effectiveness of current programs to ensure they reach those who need it and that they provide relief for clients and their families. Ultimately, the question is this: Is Minnesota doing all it can do to best address the needs of problem gamblers?

From what I’ve been able to discern, a gambling disorder is the “step-child” addiction. Minnesota, in an effort to address the issue in a progressive fashion, earmarked resources to help those with problem gambling issues two decades ago. However, the application of best practices to ensure that treatment is effective is inconsistent. DHS’s criteria to be an approved provider includes taking and passing a 60-hour online curriculum that has not been significantly upgraded in more than 20 years. Newer, evidenced-based treatments have not been incorporated into this curriculum. Further, once a licensed counselor receives their certificate, there is no requirement for supervision or further education relating to gambling disorders. Many LADCs I queried either don’t screen for gambling or, if they do, don’t have adequate experience to treat. Yet, research indicates a significant number of individuals with substance abuse will have a co-occurring gambling addiction. Minnesota also allows non-approved licensed counselors to treat gambling disorders even though they may not have had any specific training.

As an advocate for those with gambling disorders, I believe Minnesota can and must do better. Over the coming year, I’d like to gather your feedback and suggestions as to how we can move toward establishing evidence-based best practices in treating gambling disorders.