NAADAC Celebrates National Addiction Professionals Day by Announcing 2021 NAADAC Award Winners

Every year on September 20th, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, takes time to recognize and celebrate vital players of the health system and continuum of care in honor of National Addiction Professionals Day.

Started by NAADAC in 1992, the day was established to commemorate the hard work that addiction professionals do on a daily basis. As part of its National Addiction Professionals Day celebration, NAADAC honors its 2021 NAADAC Award Winners. This year, NAADAC presented awards to six outstanding individuals and one outstanding organization for their extraordinary service and contributions to the addiction profession. NAADAC traditionally presents its annual awards during its Annual Conference. Since the NAADAC 2021 Annual Conference is virtual, each recipient was presented with their award by NAADAC leadership in their home state while following CDC guidelines. Videos of these award presentations can be found on the NAADAC website.

"NAADAC recognizes the dedication and loyalty that addiction counselors and professionals apply to their daily work. This year more than ever, these are our heroes who are working above and beyond during the COVID pandemic,” said Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, BSW, NCAC II, CDC III, SAP, NAADAC Executive Director. “We commend these direct service providers who are saving and impacting individual lives every day!”

Lora Roe Memorial Addiction Counselor of the Year: Peter Mott, MA, LCDC, ICPS

The Lora Roe Memorial Addiction Counselor of the Year Award, renamed for Lora Roe in 1988, is presented to a counselor who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession of addiction counseling.

Peter Mott, MA, LCDC, ICPS, is the recipient of this year’s Lora Roe Memorial Addiction Counselor of the Year Award. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology from the University of Memphis and a Master’s degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. Mott began his behavioral health career in community-based mental health facilities in his hometown of Memphis, TN, and has been a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) in the state of Texas for 18 years for a total of 20 years in the field of behavioral health. Mott was instrumental in developing a substance use disorder prevention program for at-risk youth in South Dallas, which served over 500 at-risk youth. He also spent three years serving as Program Director for a comprehensive IOP treatment program specializing in chronic pain, dependency, and opioid use disorders. In addition, he is the President/CEO of National Workplace Prevention Resources, LLC. Mott was recently elected to the Texas Certification Board (TCB), and in August 2020, was selected to serve on NAADAC’s inaugural committee on Critical Issues in the Black Community. Mott is an outstanding advocate for reducing stigma in the workplace for those who are working toward and are in recovery.

Addiction Educator of the Year: James Saunders, EdD, MAC, LAC, LPC, NCC

The Addiction Educator of the Year Award is presented to the educator who has made an outstanding contribution to addiction education.

James Saunders, EdD, MAC, LAC, LPC, NCC, is dedicated to the propagation of addiction and counseling services and is this year’s recipient of the Addiction Educator of the Year Award. Saunders has mentored many professional addictions service providers throughout his years of service as a supervisor. Saunders has worked as an addiction counselor, as well as a senior instructor at the University of Colorado (UCCS). There, he created and implemented addictions licensure programs and initiated coursework that aligned the accreditation of the UCCS addictions program for the undergraduate human services program in addition to the graduate master’s degree program in counseling and human services. He has dedicated countless hours to his supervisory roles, which have earned him professional recognition as a board member for the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health. Through his leadership, the state of Colorado has taken a lead role in addiction prevention. From serving as a chaplain with the U.S. Airforce to working as an addictions educator at UCCS, Saunders' professional career has proven his commitment to enhancing addictions services for those in need.

Enlightenment Award: Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC

The Enlightenment Award (formerly the Lifetime Honorary Membership Award) recognizes an individual who has established outstanding service through a lifetime of consistent contributions to the advancement of NAADAC, the addiction profession, and its professionals.

Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC, is a world-renowned speaker, author, influencer, and this year’s recipient of the Enlightenment Award. He is a faculty member of the Addictions Studies Program at Governors State University, and a regular conference speaker at addictions conferences across the globe. Sanders has led the discussion on treating addiction as a disease through the healing lens of community, recognition of family, and attention to intergenerational trauma. Sanders is a past Chair of NAADAC’s Clinical Issues Committee and has inspired his fellow leaders in the clinical supervision sub-committee, emerging adults sub-committee, and LGBTQIA+ sub-committee. In 2016, Sanders launched the online Museum of African American Addictions, Treatment, and Recovery to share research that he gathered over the course of his career on effective approaches to substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery in the African American community. Sanders also co-wrote an article series with Bill White on the African American experience in recovery, which helped to enlighten the addictions field on microaggressions, the progress of addiction treatment in the African American community, and how to continue the conversation of quality care in addiction treatment.

William F. "Bill" Callahan Leadership Award: Joe Powell, LCDC, PRSS, RSPS, PSS

The William F. “Bill” Callahan Award is presented for sustained and meritorious service at the national level to the profession of addiction counseling.

Joe Powell, LCDC, PRSS, RSPS, PSS, is this year’s recipient of the William F. "Bill" Callahan Leadership Award for his commendable leadership and 32-year-long journey through recovery. Powell is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) who has provided services to individuals and family members with addictions and co-occurring mental health disorders for 29 years in Dallas, TX. He is the former President for the National Leadership Council of African American Behavioral Health and is one of the founding board members for National Faces and Voices of Recovery. He is President and CEO of the Association of Persons Affected by Addiction (APAA), an organization for people seeking or currently in recovery, their family members, and their community. APAA is one of the first five organizations of its kind in the nation and the first Texas Peer Recovery Community Organization accredited with the National Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services. Powell also serves as a contributing member to NAADAC’s Critical Issues in the Black Community Committee. As a result of Powell’s leadership, peers are now working in the criminal justice setting, university collegiate recovery programs, reentry programs, inpatient and outpatient clinical treatment programs, hospitals, shelters, recovery housing, and more.

Davida Coady Gorham Medical Professional of the Year: Abimbola Farinde, PharmD, LPC, LCDC

The Davida Coady Gorham Medical Professional of the Year Award is presented to a medical professional who has made an outstanding contribution to the addiction profession.

Abimbola Farinde, PharmD, LPC, LCDC, is the recipient of the 2021 Davida Coady Gorham Medical Professional of the Year award. She is a devoted clinical pharmacy specialist and addictions counselor who excels in all clinical environments. She is a graduate of Texas Southern University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and she completed the PGY1 Pharmacy Residency Program at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System in Temple, TX. She went on to complete a PGY2 Residency in Psychopharmacology at Parkland Health and Hospital System. In addition, she participated in the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists Foundation’s Parkinson's Disease Pharmacotherapy Traineeship at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and has completed online training modules in the ASCP Pain Management and Palliative Care Traineeship Level 1 program. She continues to attend Texas Society of Addiction Medicine and NAADAC webinars, seminars, and conferences on an annual basis and seeks to provide optimal patient care in her clinical practice setting. She has served on the Council on Professional Affairs as Vice Chair and as a member of the Fellowship Credentialing Committee for the Texas Society of Health System Pharmacists (TSHP). Her areas of focus include social disparities, barriers to treatment and recovery, and substance use disorders and is immensely dedication to the best possible care for all her clients.

Mel Schulstad Professional of the Year Award: Thurston S. Smith, MPA, LAC, CCS

The Mel Shulstad Professional of the Year Award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding and sustained contributions to the advancement of the addiction counseling profession.

The recipient of this year’s Mel Schulstad Professional of the Year Award is Thurston S. Smith, MPA, LAC, CCS. Smith has over 25 years of experience in the addiction counseling profession specializing in behavioral healthcare, education, training, and public policy. He is a community leader, advocate, and mentor who currently serves as Administrative Surveyor for CARF International and a project team member for Paramount Consulting Group, PLLC. As a retiree of the U.S. Veterans’ Health Administration, Smith has served in a variety of leadership roles throughout his civil service career, including Congressional Liaison. With emphasis on criminal and juvenile justice policy reform, he has provided oral testimony before the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus Political Education & Leadership Institute and the Tennessee House of Representatives. Smith demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to advancing addiction treatment and behavioral health services through drug policy reform, advocacy, legislative recommendations, and mentorship. Smith has made numerous contributions to NAADAC’s newest committee, the Critical Issues in the Black Community Committee, and he also worked as a liaison for speakers at NAADAC’s first Engagement in the Black Community Summit this year. As a U.S. Treasury Department appointee, Smith fulfilled a three-year federal advisory committee term on the IRS National Taxpayer Advocacy Panel and is currently fulfilling his second term of service on the Community Resource Board for the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He has proven his clinical wisdom and expertise, tireless devotion to underserved people, and profound understanding of both federal and local regulations.

These dedicated addiction professionals were given awards by NAADAC leadership in their home states over the past month. You can find videos of their award acceptance speeches at The winners will also be celebrated in the Fall Issue of NAADAC’s magazine, Advances in Addiction and Recovery.

National Addiction Professionals Day is held in September as a part of National Recovery Month, which aims to increase awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and celebrate people in recovery. For more information on Recovery Month, please visit


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