The South Southwest ATTC Consortium of Higher Education Institutions

Maureen Nichols
Director, South Southwest ATTC

In 1993, the South Southwest ATTC formed an educational consortium of community colleges across Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) to impact the quality of clinical addiction care by enhancing academic preparation for new counselors entering the addictions treatment field and to support the recruitment and retention of minority counselors.

Initially, it was the Texas public behavioral health agency that identified a need for a closer alignment between the racial and ethnic composition of addiction treatment program staff compared to the high percentage of minority clients served. Treatment programs reported particular difficulty in hiring bilingual counseling staff. The SSW ATTC identified community based institutions of higher education with a large percentage of minority students and recruited them to offer addictions coursework to equip students with the competencies for delivery of evidence based practices and to provide for internship placements in local treatment programs.

We realized this partnership was also a mechanism for embedding long-term technical assistance of evidence-based practices into the field in a multi-faceted way. Faculty at the consortium schools developed course content based on evidence-based practices promoted by SAMHSA, including TIP 21. The coursework is reviewed by staff from the SSW ATTC to ensure its fidelity to current best practices. Faculty develop long-term working relationships with local treatment providers in their community and place practicum students at the community treatment sites. Faculty also provide ongoing technical assistance in areas such as implementing evidence-based practice with fidelity, best practices in supervision of clinical staff and program evaluation to those local providers.

Today, these local colleges and universities, located across multiple states, still provide pre-service education and training in partnership with their professional communities. The ability to work with those institutions and instructors training our newest counselors and providing them with field experience, allows us to amplify our impact in implementing the latest evidence-based practices into the field. It also enhances our states and local communities’ ability to recruit, promote, and support a culturally and linguistically diverse governance, leadership, and workforce that is reflective of and responsive to the populations they serve.

The consortium remains a stable collaboration that meets annually to share curriculum strategies, technical assistance plans, and student recruitment and placement plans. In 25 years, over 30,000 students have participated and now populate treatment programs throughout the region. The program is very popular with low-income students who can take courses in affordable community colleges located in their locality. Faculty of these programs have become resources in their local communities for the latest addictions and treatment practices. The information gained from faculty and students continues to guide the South Southwest ATTC in our needs assessment, goal setting and implementation processes to improve the lives of those impacted by addiction.

To learn more about the current members view our Education Consortium page or contact the South Southwest ATTC at

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