John Rundquist, senior counselor and marketing director at Crossroads Aftercare Program, will never forget his first interaction with a problem gambler eight years ago. “I had a client who had been living in his car in the desert, and I saw that he was missing some teeth,” recalls John, who joined the Northstar board in July 2011. “My assumption was that meth use was running his life.” However, as John listened to his client talk about the devastation in his life and what had transpired, he learned something that surprised him: gambling was the primary cause of his client’s problems and distress.
“My initial reaction, even as a ‘trained professional,’ was to think, ‘Well why can’t you just stop gambling?’ That experience opened my eyes to the power of gambling.”
John, who is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, subsequently spent a week as a professional in residence at Project Turnabout for the Vanguard Compulsive Gambling Program in Granite Falls, Minnesota, to learn more about the challenges facing problem gamblers. He’s since become a state-certified gambling provider in Minnesota and is currently working to attain a national gambler counselor certification. John is also a member of the Minnesota Problem Gambling Advisory Council.
In addition to developing the tools to effectively treat gamblers, John feels strongly about creating greater awareness about the prevalence of gambling addiction. “I see the need for more education, more treatment and just getting the message out about problem gambling – all the things that Northstar does,” says John, whose caseload is comprised of approximately 25 percent problem gamblers. “This is a disorder that the general public and professionals, in particular, need to be more aware of so it can be diagnosed and treated.”
“I’m passionate about helping compulsive gamblers and their families find recovery,” says John. It’s those aspirations and goals that John hopes to help further as a member of the Northstar board. “I look forward to working collaboratively with other board members to continue their efforts to educate, support and guide professionals that work in the field.”