Press & Updates

Terri Sue Canale: Building a Treatment Program in California

By Terri Sue Canale, Chief, Office of Problem Gambling, California Department of Public Health

As the 2014 Massachusetts Conference on Gambling Problems – Celebrating 30 Years: The Game has Changed approaches, we are thrilled to be able to dedicate our blog to give you weekly highlights leading up to April 10 & 11. Highlights will include information about speakers, as well as an occasional sneak peek, written by the speakers themselves, about their upcoming presentations.

This week, we are happy to introduce Terri Sue Canale, Chief, Office of Problem Gambling, California Department of Public Health.

Terri Sue Canale began her state service career with the California Department of Corrections 22 years ago.  In 1999, Ms. Canale transferred to the Department of Justice, Division of Gambling Control, where she began working with the gambling industry. During her tenure with the Department of Justice, Ms. Canale received the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in 2000 and the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Supervision in 2007.  In addition, she was a member of the North American Gaming Regulators Association from 2001-08 and served as the Western U.S. Regional Director from 2006-08.

In November 2008, she was appointed Deputy Director of the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Program’s Office of Problem Gambling.  Deputy Director Canale developed and implemented the first state-funded problem gambling treatment services program. In addition, she has focused on providing multi-cultural, multi-lingual problem gambling prevention and treatment services to meet the diverse needs of the citizens of California. She has been active with the California and National Council’s on Problem Gambling.  In 2011, she was elected to serve on the Board for the Association of Problem Gambling Service Administrators.  Recently, when the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs was eliminated, the Office of Problem Gambling moved under the Department of Public Health, where Ms. Canale’s title was changed to Chief. 

During her panel discussion, Ms. Canale will talk about what it took to build a treatment program in California, as well as all the steps that needed to be taken. The following is preview of what to expect during Ms. Canale’s presentation:

Building a treatment program for the state of California was a daunting task. We had 3 years to develop, plan implement and evaluate. How, you ask? We concentrated on four regions within the State with a goal of delivering a stepped-care approach to problem gambling treatment. 

The program is designed to help both gamblers and family members negatively impacted by problem gambling behavior. We offer:

  • self-help workbooks, which can be downloaded in 21 languages from our website,
  • telephone counseling in English, Spanish and Asian languages,
  • outpatient treatment in 27 languages/dialects, and
  •  intensive outpatient and residential care.

When we began developing the program in 2009, there were 22 problem gambling certified counselors in the state. Our prevalence study indicated as many as 19,000 Californians might seek treatment for problem gambling.  We needed a workforce! Within two years we trained over 400 licensed therapists, also creating awareness of gambling addiction. More than 200 became authorized State treatment service providers who have now served more than 5,000 clients in the program.

Tracking and evaluation….want real-time data? We did! We built a data system that is HIPAA compliant to store client and provider data. Each time a client attends a session with a provider, data is collected to provide us real-time outcomes, gambling information and much more. In addition to collecting client data, this system doubles as our billing system. Technologically advanced for State Government, absolutely; there is no paper involved, the billing system is all automated providing timely payment to our providers. 

Without evaluation, how can we know people are getting the treatment they need? Our team conducts on-site visits to our providers, talking to them about the data management system and ensuring they are following policies and procedures. Some of those 22 that were already serving problem gamblers became our program Supervisors and offer supervision to providers via conference call. Follow-up data is collected from clients after completion of state-funded services. Come see what we have accomplished in very little time, with a limited budget and our “tiny but mighty” team! 

If you are interested in hearing more about Ms. Canale’s innovative program in California, attend our informative 2-day conference!  Check out: 2014 Massachusetts Conference on Gambling Problems – Celebrating 30 Years: The Game has Changed. For more information about the Conference contact Alicia Barron, Intervention and Treatment Support Manager.


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