John Ellis testifies before Ohio House committee on chemical dependency licensure changes


On Wednesday, March 30, John Ellis, an instructor and addiction curriculum coordinator in UA’s School of Social Work and Family Sciences, provided proponent testimony to the State and Local Government Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives as a substance abuse and mental health subject-matter expert for proposed House Bill 452.

The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), makes various changes throughout Ohio law regarding the Chemical Dependency Professionals Board and its regulation of chemical dependency professionals. Specifically, it removes unintended restrictive language in Ohio law that limits the pool of behavioral health care related master’s degree graduates eligible for advanced licensure with the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board (OCDPB). 

An advance standing program in social work, such as the one UA offers, is an accelerated degree that can be completed in one calendar year and 36 credit hours. Eligibility for these programs includes an undergraduate degree in social work in combination with superior academic performance.

“The certifying body of all accredited social work programs offers an incentive for graduate students who have risen to an honors level of academic performance and potential during their undergraduate social work experience,” Ellis told the committee during his testimony. “Unfortunately, the present Ohio Code will not recognize a master’s program of less than 40 hours, thus marginalizing some of our best and brightest graduates from obtaining the Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor License; the highest license available from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board.”

Man with facial hair in blue top speaking with hands.

In this photo from 2020, John Ellis facilitates a discussion with the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant Data Committee on rolling out the campus wide National College Health Assessment survey. Ellis, professor of instruction and addiction curriculum coordinator in UA’s School of Social Work, is project manager of the grant, which was awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to the School of Social Work and Family Sciences.

If the bill is passed, graduates from accredited master’s in social work (MSW) advanced standing programs will be eligible for this independent clinical license. The bill also allows for the OCDPB to revise academic content areas required of licensure applicants to be more in line with the needs of the field.

Speaking from his experiences as an instructor and a recovering addict, Ellis told the committee that his students have a passion for wanting to work in Ohio’s treatment programs, children’s services agencies, correction facilities and other areas in hopes of helping others struggling with addiction, and that the current law can hinder those aspirations.

“These collegians, many of whom are non-traditional working adults, are talented, smart, passionate and eager to help,” Ellis told the committee. “Unfortunately, some are encountering barriers to the workplaces that desperately need them. Not because of any fault of their own, but due to unanticipated restrictive language in Ohio Code on what constitutes a master’s degree.”

In closing, Ellis told the committee that removing the restrictive language will open the door for students in accelerated programs to earn the Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor License “at a time of historic need.”

Ellis has been at UA since 2015. He is project manager of UA’s Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, which is being used to enhance services for college students, including those at risk for suicide, depression, serious mental illness and/or substance use disorders that can lead to academic setbacks. Ellis’ professional experience in the addiction field extends 35 years, having worked in direct clinical services, administration, volunteerism and academia.

House Bill 452 was introduced in October 2021 and is currently under committee review. Learn more about the bill here.

Media contact: Cristine Boyd, 330-972-6476 or