A second career: A local man helping people fight addiction


“So I get here at about six o clock..."

Every day is an early one for Kelly Benjamin - and every day presents a new challenge.

“Then I make rounds with a provider who does a physical on them...”

As a behavioral health counselor at Saint Peter's Hospital for the last six years, Kelly Benjamin has seen it all - including the rise of opioid addiction.

“When I first got into the field, I would say as far as treatment wise you would get a few people, probably about 50 percent alcohol, 50 percent opiates, some people benzos. In the last couple of years, it’s been probably 90 percent opioid addiction."

Kelly says he noticed the opioid epidemic long before his time at Saint Peter's - and that's what sent him back to school more than ten years ago - to start a second career.

“The more I see it and the younger faces I see getting involved and the more deaths that occur - that's really what pushed me forward to try to be a part of the solution rather than just sitting back and saying ‘I hope this goes away,’ because it’s not going away, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Kelly got his associate’s and bachelor’s degree at Hudson Valley Community College, and is starting his master’s this fall at UAlbany.

He says peer-to-peer counseling and volunteer work can be great ways to get people help - but encourages those who are interested to get certified and get out on the front lines.

“I think it can be a very fulfilling career, but I think you need to put a lot of thought into whether you want to go down that path because it can be a rather challenging career. The success rate, even though it’s higher now - we see a lot of failures but I think it’s a very fulfilling field."

For more information on certified education programs. you can visit the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services.

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