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Faculty Chair Kirk Bowden Receives APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Public Interest Award

Faculty Chair Kirk Bowden Receives APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Public Interest Award Bowden testifying at Congressional briefing about the nation’s opioid epidemic in April 2017. elp Make Recovery Possible.  For more details, visit:

Dr. Kirk Bowden, Rio Salado College’s faculty chair of Addictions and Substance Use Disorders program, was presented with the American Psychological Association (APA) Society for Addiction Psychology Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Public Interest at the APA August 2020 annual conference.

Honorees are APA members who have made distinguished contributions to the advancement of public interest in the addictions field including research or advocacy leading others to view national policies differently, research demonstrating the importance of the application of scientific methods and theory to public policy or research clarifying the ways scientific knowledge of human behavior informs public interest about the addiction field. 

“Dr. Bowden’s expertise, leadership and contributions to student learning, our college and the national discourse make it clear why he was chosen for this prestigious award,” said Interim President Kate Smith. “This award is fitting for someone who has clearly devoted his life to help people recover from addiction and advance the field of addictions counseling in education and public policy.”

Bowden began his career in addictions counseling education 30 years ago and has become a leading, national expert in the field who has received numerous awards and appointments for his outstanding achievements. Among his more recent honors include the 2020 Arizona Counselor Association Advocacy Award; the 2019 Educator of the Year Award from NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals; and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 from the International Coalition for Addiction Studies Education. He was also invited to provide expert advice and testimony about opioid use, including a Congressional briefing about the nation’s opioid epidemic hosted by the American Counseling Association in April 2017.

Bowden has been a long-time advocate for education as the way to treat addiction and the opioid epidemic in the United States. “Prison is not the answer,” said Bowden.  “We need to treat addiction as a disease, not as a crime and the only way we’re going to do this is through education. I’m talking about education for people living with addiction, their loved ones and service providers— especially their medical doctors and therapists— really all of us.”

Bowden has worked with Rio Salado faculty, other experts in the field and accrediting addictions and counseling agencies to create educational content to help professionals stay relevant, informed and connected. Bowden and his collaborators develop coursework for professionals and non-professionals alike. “Many of our students are parents, teachers and social workers, who, through their daily lives and jobs, encounter people with addiction issues,” Bowden said. “They complete our seminars and courses for a variety of reasons.”

“Most of us are affected by the opioid epidemic,” said Bowden. “It’s difficult to escape when 130 people die from opioid overdose every day and more than 700,000 lives have been claimed from 1999-2017. We’re in this together, and the only way out is together— and through education.”

Dr. Bowden will serve as guest editor of the 2021 edition of Translational Issues in Psychological Science, a relatively new journal co-sponsored by the APA and the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students. This will be a special issue focusing on psychology and the opioid epidemic.

Kirk Bowden, PhD, MAC, NCC, LPC, is a member of the APA Society of Addiction Psychology board of directors, president-elect of IAAOC and Professor-in-Charge of Ottawa University’s Addiction Counseling Program. He has served as past president of NAADAC, chair of the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners and chair of its Substance Abuse Counselor and Professional Counselor Credentialing Committees. Bowden is a board member and past president of INCASE.

Rio Salado is the only community college in Maricopa County designed to offer classes that meet academic requirements for licensing through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners and serves as one of the largest addiction studies programs in higher education. The college offers online classes, certificates, an Associate Degree in Addictions and Substance Use Disorders and continuing education coursework, which are accredited by the California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators and the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission.  

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