Profile: Wanda Handy

Certified Substance Abuse Counselor

In November 2000, Wanda Handy left her management job with Southwestern Bell after 27 years of service. Two months later, she was working toward an undergraduate degree in human services with an emphasis in addiction counseling and gerontology. And today, at 53, Handy is working toward a master’s in social work.

“I grew up with parents who were alcoholics,” says Handy. “At 38, I married someone with an addiction problem. I wanted to know why addiction takes over lives and how it affects decisions.”

The benefactors of Handy’s personal experience, education and curiosity for the “why” are the young males who are sentenced to the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka where Handy is a certified substance abuse counselor. Upward of 80 percent ofthe more than 200 youth at the facility have been recommended for substance abuse treatment, either for their own addiction or abuse problem or because of their association with someone who misuses or abuses drugs or alcohol, she says.

 “Coming from the corporate world to where I am now was quite a road,” says Handy, a member of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. She hopes the youth she works with will find new paths of their own. “Although they made a mistake in life, it is just an obstacle. They can continue on.”