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Chaplains certified as gambling counselors

BORDENTOWN ARMORY, N.J. -- “Military chaplains” and “gambling” are not normally associated in the same sentence; however, a recent training course changed that.

The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc., partnered with New Jersey Air National Guard chaplains to hold a 30-hour faith-based training in late June to address gambling addiction. Fourteen chaplains and chaplain assistants took advantage of the five-day course held at the National Guard Armory in Bordentown.

“With sports betting beginning in New Jersey, I thought it would be a good idea to prepare the chaplain corps for potential issues that could affect Soldiers, Airmen, veterans, and their families,” said Lt. Col. Yaakov Bindell, NJANG, full-time chaplain.

New Jersey’s pending legislation on sports gambling initially sparked the chaplain’s interest in the subject matter. On June 11, Gov. Philip D. Murphy signed a bill legalizing sports betting in the Garden State, solidifying Bindell’s conviction.

“Anything that negatively affects our Airmen is worthwhile in obtaining training,” said Maj. Francis Rella, 108th Wing chaplain and course attendee.

The 108th chaplain staff had previously received training in traumatic event management, domestic violence response, and combat and operational stress control.

“It’s important to keep our skills sharp and this was a great opportunity to refresh our counseling and intervention skills and learn about gambling addiction,” said Bindell.

Other course attendees felt the same way.

Gambling “… is a serious issue that needs more attention,” said Rella. “The broader our knowledge base, the better equipped we are as counselors to protect and guide our Airmen from harm,” he added.
The training covered gambling basics I and II, gambling and the family, individual counseling and gambling and the law and case management and treatment planning.

While this course focused on gambling, there was an overlap to other types of addiction and addictive behavior said Rella. He found that the major difference between gambling and other addictions are the screening questions and the referrals used for assistance.

Participants completing the entire course fulfilled the requirements to become an International Certified Gambling Counselor sanctioned by the International Gambling Counselor Certification Board.