Meet Craig S.

Alumnus, teacher, advocate

“The work that we do here is important, and I always tell my students that they have someone’s life in their hands.”

Adjunct Instructor Craig Stratton ’07 checks a lot of boxes when he sits down to talk about his involvement with the college’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program.

After graduating from the program in 2007, he never thought seriously about returning to teach, but he happened to meet up with a former professor who convinced him to give it a shot.

“Miraculously, I ran into [former Department chair Karen Nash] again within weeks of completing my graduate degree, so it seemed like it was meant to be. I applied, went through the interview, and I just love Hudson Valley so much that when I got the position, I was all in,” he said.

He’s been an adjunct instructor for nearly a decade now, in addition to his full-time position as the Albany County Drug Court’s program supervisor and resource coordinator.

“Anything they need, I’m here for this program. It’s been a wonderful journey to be a part of this institution. It’s given me a lot and embraced me all the way from the time I was a student up until this point in my professional career,” he said.

An Albany native and person in active recovery from substance abuse, Stratton entered his career field, in part, because of what he experienced and saw in his own neighborhood growing up. He’s become a mentor to a new generation of counselors who had him as a teacher and are now colleagues. All three of the case managers he supervises at Albany County Drug Court, he’s proud to note, are Hudson Valley graduates.

“To be on the phone with a person who was in my classroom five or seven years ago and now they are in a position out in the field working in a treatment program, that’s where the passion to teach really comes out,” he said. “I’m proud of them, and I tell them I’m proud of them. It’s wonderful to see them grow.”

In his role at Albany County Drug Court, Stratton serves as the primary contact for lawyers and district attorneys, doing assessments and helping to determine who could benefit from drug court.

“Drug court is an alternative to incarceration for those who are facing felony charges but also have a substance use disorder (SUD),” Stratton explained. “Traditionally, if someone had charges against them, they would go right to court or take a plea, and there would be some jail time. But it was discovered that there are a significant number of people who come into the criminal justice system who have substance use disorders, and the SUD is the driving factor in the crime.”

Those who go through the drug court are screened, monitored and connected to outpatient or inpatient treatment services. Eventually, with continued treatment and verified abstinence, they can be eligible to “graduate” from the program in about two years.

Prior to joining Albany County Drug Court, Stratton worked at several other substance abuse treatment programs in the Capital Region and in the 15 years he’s been an advocate and counselor, he’s gained an excellent reputation. An example: he was one of four honored at the 2022 Recovery in the Park event, which annually celebrates those in recovery from substance abuse as well as those who help them maintain their sobriety.

“I was honored by it and it was a surprise, but I just get up and do my job,” he said. “You don’t do this job to get rich. You want to help people become the best that they can be. The substance use problems in our communities are not going away, and we need more counselors to help those people. The work that we do here is important, and I always tell my students that they have someone’s life in their hands.”