Category Archives: Ethics

IC&RC Announces 2011 Conference Details

IC&RC has released more detailed information about “A Principled Practice: Ethics in Addiction Treatment and Prevention,” IC&RC’s first-ever professional training conference. 

Scheduled for October 28 & 29, 2011 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Florida, we are looking forward to the:

  • Friday Keynote Address by Stephen J. Morse, J.D., Ph.D. on “Neuroscience, Morality and Addiction”
  • Saturday Half-Day Workshop on “Culturally Complex Ethical Challenges” with Stephanie Murtaugh, MA, MBA, LPC, CAC, CCS, CCJP, CCDP Diplomate
  • Conference Sessions on Prevention, Clinical Supervision, Criminal Justice, Co-Occurring Disorders, and Organizational Ethics
  • Conference Schedule, including Invitation to IC&RC’s 30th Anniversary Reception 

This conference is open to all credentialed addiction and prevention professionals, individuals in the process of becoming credentialed, and behavioral health and affiliated professionals. Conference registration also includes complimentary access to IC&RC Professional Services – priced at $25 a year but valued much higher.

Register online today!

Ethical Fitness: December 2010

As you may recall, our Ethical Fitness column in September referred to a situation in which Bob, a prevention specialist, meets weekly with a group of at-risk teens in a rural county high school. These students had been caught smoking or drinking, and Bob has Judge Jones speak to them about underage drinking and driving laws, explaining the trouble they can incur. The Judge is stopped by police in a nearby town and arrested for drunken driving. Our dilemma: What to do about having the Judge continue to speak with this intervention-oriented group?

Serendipitously, I was able to combine a group of eight workshop participants who needed six hours of prevention ethics by year’s end with a need to resolve Bob’s ethical dilemma. One captive audience plus one applicable case study discussion equals a vibrant multiple exchange of ideas!

The group identified the following ethical principles as germane to the Judge’s involvement:

  • Ethical Obligation to Community and Society: adoption of a personal and professional stance that promotes well-being of all;
  • Integrity: we should not be associated…with services or products in a way that is in any way misleading or incorrect; and
  • Competence: recognize one’s limits & boundaries and use due care to plan and adequately supervise activities for which one is responsible).

Next, various members of the group brought up the following concerns: Is the Judge willing to be honest about his arrest? What’s his message going to be? Will the students know about his arrest? This was a no-brainer – everyone in a rural community knows what’s up. Some decided that the Judge’s message could be even more meaningful in the future, but we need to check his intentions. Thanks to Cheryl, Virginia, David, Kate, Angela, Sarah, Craig and Tonia for their whole-hearted participation in our discussion.

This case study reminded me of an incident I once faced when students at one of our high schools wanted a particular boy to speak during prom week. A judge had ordered that this teen’s probation include speaking to others about the dangers of alcohol abuse. He had been charged for under-aged purchase of alcohol (he looked older and was not carded) that led to the death of another teen. The other high school student passed out in the rear seat of a minivan and died, aspirating his own vomit.

A school psychologist and I decided we should meet with the young man and see what his message would be. We were faced with the unenviable task of helping him to understand just what he had done that was so wrong. His immaturity was such that he had not fully faced the fact that his actions had led to the death of another. This taught me never to assume a speaker is bringing a hoped for or even logical message, and to always check out people who will interact with my audience, no matter how highly recommended they are.

Here’s an interesting dilemma for you to gnaw on when you catch your breath after the holidays:

You are a prevention professional working at a Regional Mental Health Center. Rachel, a co-worker, has been hospitalized recently. A group is in the break room. Someone asks how Rachel is doing, and no one has any news about her condition. A clinician, who works part-time at your agency and part-time at the local hospital, gets on the hospital’s internet account, types in his code and downloads Rachel’s medical records. He proceeds to share this information with those of you in the break room. What do you do?

Leave a comment here with your answer or email with Ethical Fitness in the subject line. Peace, joy, and a blessed new year to all!

Ethical Fitness

by Linda Verst

As I pen the third in our inaugural year of prevention-focused ethics columns, my tomatoes are beginning to fade on the vine after weeks of daily eating, giving them away and flash freezing my bounty.  I barely recall those early June days when I daily peered for growth, tomato blossoms or tiny fruit.  Our work is often that way, isn’t it?  Either we’re cooling our heels waiting for the next shoe to drop or carrying paperwork wherever we go, trying to play catch up.

 Our last column had to do with that new preventionist whose job was preventing prenatal alcohol exposure. She needed a second job, and bartending appealed. Thanks to Jessica Hestand and Julie Stevens, who possibly twisted a few arms, I’ve not had to cool my heels waiting for responses.  I appreciate all who wrote and took this dilemma seriously!  Note: none of you argued with the possibility of the person needing to supplement her income, or of bartending as financially feasible in filling that gap.  We all recognize the believability of this issue.

Here are just a few of your thoughtful responses:

From Aleza Berube, Prevention Educator in Austin TX, “… this is a conflict of interest because the grant is to prevent alcohol use by pregnant women.  Since it is not illegal to serve pregnant women, you might end up serving a pregnant woman …” 

From Dechantria D. Wallace, ICPS, Academic Advisor in Little Rock AR, “I would have to say that this is definitely a conflict of interest… As prevention specialists we all uphold certain ethical standards. How can you serve alcohol to individuals at one job and promote prevention of alcohol use to individuals at another?  In fact, this is no worse than accepting money from a local alcohol distributor to promote prevention activities…”

Finally, from Katrina Cavaness, ICPS, Monticello Schools, AR, “(She) should look for extra work elsewhere as this scenario is a clear-cut conflict of interest.  What would (she) do if she were to accept the bartending job and one of her pregnant clients came into the establishment for a drink?  How would the pregnant client feel seeing her counselor serving drinks?  This situation would undermine the prevention professional’s ability to effectively assist her clients to abstain from alcohol.”

All readers will be happy to know that the actual preventionist in this case study chose on her own not to take the bartending job, but to find other employment, even though it might be less helpful to her financial situation. 

Thanks to all who shared views, and here are some useful internet resources for information on Fetal Alcohol issues:

Want to see your name in this international newsletter?  Here’s a new dilemma for your consideration: 

“Bob is working in intervention in a rural area.  One of his responsibilities is to meet weekly with a small group of at-risk teens at the county high school.  These students have been caught smoking or drinking.  Judge Jones is a local judge who speaks to Bob’s group.  The Judge speaks to the teens about underage drinking and driving laws, explaining how much trouble they can incur.  Judge Jones is stopped by police in a town close to Bob’s school.  He is arrested for drunk driving.  What should Bob do about having the Judge continue to speak to his intervention group?”

Please share your thoughts in the comments.   You’re also welcome to send sample case studies (suitably disguised) for future discussion to with the subject line of “Ethical Fitness.”

Ethical Fitness

by Linda Verst

Last evening I attended my first meeting for widows and widowers at a local church that is well-known for its ministry to singles.  In spite of a history of passionate public and private speaking promoting ATOD prevention, I found myself dragging my feet for months (okay, honesty here) years, but I found the place, took a deep breath and made some new friends.  For me, this is a first step toward dating; something I’ve not done for 40 or so years!

Another first we can chalk up is the Ethical Fitness column and more importantly our first Ethical Fitness column response in IC&RC Insights! You may recall that we looked at whether a small town prevention coalition should accept money from a beer distributor for the county high school’s annual all-night post prom party.

Thanks, Jill Weinischke, for sharing your experience clearly and concisely:

“We have had these discussions and as a prevention specialist we should definitely NOT accept resources from the alcohol industry if we are trying to prevent underage drinking or drinking and driving – it is ethically a conflict of interest. We can find the money somewhere else. In our case, the father of one of our Pride Students worked for the local beer distributor and he understood – he actually gave a private donation instead.”

This, our second column addresses an ethical issue faced by a young woman facing her own “first” experience: a new job as a prevention specialist.  Here’s her dilemma:

You have just accepted your first job as a certified prevention specialist at a regional alcohol & other drug prevention agency.  You are so excited, having worked long and hard, first getting your bachelor’s in Human Services, then working in social service for a state agency while putting together your portfolio and finally passing the state Prevention exam.

Your primary responsibility in this new position will be to implement a grant designed to prevent alcohol use by pregnant women.  There is just one hitch: Entry level prevention positions in your area don’t pay well, and you need an additional part time job to meet expenses.  You’ve supplemented your income very successfully in the past with a local restaurant as a bartender.  They will be happy to have you and are very flexible about arranging hours to suit you.

Is this a conflict of interest?

Please comment here or email your thoughts to

Ethical Fitness by Linda Verst

It’s not like I wasn’t warned that having a fairly large family (five children) would increase the possibility of even more bodies once they started reproducing (currently two adult step-grandchildren, six grands under age five, and another on the way).  It’s just that I did not think about how enjoyable yet time consuming it would be! Working full-time in prevention took less time and energy.  So, I am delighted to have another of my passions draw me away and encompass my thinking now and again. 

I’ve been teaching prevention topics, and more specifically, prevention focused ethics for 13 years. The longer I teach, the more I learn and the more I see a need for revisiting our values and principles as prevention professionals.  Pam Lawrenz, my co-trainer, coined the title “Ethical Fitness” for our workshops about ten years ago.  Her insight was that, just as we need exercise to stay physically fit, we must re-address our thinking to stay ethically fit.   Great idea, Pam!

That’s what we’d like to take up in a recurring “Ethical Fitness” column here in our newsletter.  Each quarter, I will provide an ethical dilemma, based on actual events (truth being stranger than fiction), then you advise us on how you’d resolve our dilemma.  Your sharing of ideas will help us all accomplish our “work-outs” free of groans and sighs.  

Here is our initial dilemma: 

“You are a certified prevention specialist working for a non-profit agency in a rural area. One of your responsibilities is to represent your agency as a member of a local coalition.  This coalition plays a major role in funding and planning the county high school’s annual all-night post-prom event.  This event is very popular with the students.  It clearly appears to keep them out of trouble with drinking and other unhealthy behavior after the prom.  Funding is always an issue, and a bigger problem than ever this year.  The coalition is $1,000 short.  A local company, also represented on the coalition, has offered to supply the needed funds.  The only hitch is that they want you to hang a lively colored poster over the entrance to the event that says: “Major funding provided by your local distributor of Weisenbu light beer.  Always choose a designated driver.  Remember we oppose underage drinking.” 

What do you do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.   You’re also welcome to send sample case studies (suitably disguised) for future discussion to with the subject line of “Ethical Fitness.”