March 1950 – November 2019

Worth was a native North Carolinian—he grew up in Wilmington and joined the Army in 1968 when he was 18. He served two tours in Vietnam as an Army C75th Ranger and received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

When he returned from Asia, he enrolled at UNC-Wilmington where he received a bachelor’s degree. He later went to UNC’s off-campus work/study program in Wilmington as a component of his master’s degree in social work, which he earned from UNC in 1981. He was a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist and a Certified Clinical Supervisor.

Worth spent his entire career helping people with substance use challenges find help and health, beginning at a time in history when they were considered by most people to be a lost cause. In his various roles as a treatment provider, clinical supervisor, mentor, trainer, teacher, and consultant, he shaped the field of social work and particularly the addictions communities. He joined the UNC School of Social Work Clinical Faculty in 1997 and was instrumental in developing the statewide workforce of current and future substance use disorder professionals. Worth taught courses in the MSW Certificate program, was a field supervisor for students’ clinical hours and worked with community organizations and the state division of substance use disorders to ensure that the next generation of treatment providers were fully equipped to meet the growing need. In addition, he served as a trainer on mental illness and substance use evidence-based practices for federal grants and worked tirelessly to ensure that Veterans’ behavioral health care needs were met. He served on statewide and national boards and committees and volunteered countless hours in program development assistance and policy formulation. He was a founding board member of the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board, and in that role, he visited all of the other Masters’ level substance abuse certificate programs across the state. In addition, he participated as a field reviewer and served on the Editorial Review Board for the Journal of Social Work in Addictions, and as Chair of NASW’s National ATOD Steering Committee. He was a recurring speaker at the Oxford House Conventions and presented at countless state and national conferences.

Worth always made time for those having challenges with substance use disorders. His daughter said, “What I remember most is how many people battling addiction he met with…at all hours, over holidays…and created extended relationships with.”

In his role with students, Mr. Bolton’s commitment was endless. As an instructor, coach, supervisor, and mentor to hundreds of professionals, his impact will be long lasting across the state. In a recent survey of UNC social work program alumni, one respondent commented: “the biggest strength was Worth. He took a personal interest in his students and has always been available when needed even after graduation.” Another student stated, “Worth Bolton is well-known and respected throughout the state, and saying he was your professor carries a lot of weight in the SA/MH community.”

During his 40-year career, he received the following awards:

  • 2016 UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work Pioneer Award
  • 2015 NC Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board for his years of dedicated and committed service to the Board from 2007-2015. The Award gratefully acknowledges his commitment to the field of alcohol and other drug abuse treatment and prevention.
  • 2012 Addiction Professionals of North Carolina Norbett L. Kelly Distinguished Service Award in appreciation of contributions to the Field of Alcoholism and Chemical Dependence.
  • 2012 North Carolina Oxford House Founders Award, for generous time and support spent in the founding of the Oxford House Program in the State of North Carolina.
  • 2011 Anuvia Prevention and Recovery Center Jody Kellermann Award for Excellence in service to the community by advocating for the professional development of substance abuse counselors, creating, and influencing organizations that promote excellence in substance abuse treatment and training thousands of people who have pursued a career in the substance abuse field. Because of the tireless giving of your time and energy, countless people have found the miracle of life in recovery.
  • 2010 Oxford House, Inc. Tom Fellows Award in appreciation of support of Oxford House expansion for over a decade.
  • 1996 Preceptor of the Year, US Marine Corps.
  • (unknown date) Atlantic Behavioral Health Systems, Inc. for 5 years of outstanding contributions and dedication.
  • 1988 NC Department of Correction, Division of Adult Probation and Parole, Volunteer of the Year.
  • 1983-1991 North Carolina Foundation for Alcohol and Drug studies in honor and grateful appreciation for your commitment and service to the field of substance abuse education as a member. Thank you for your hard work, creative energy, and sense of humor.
  • 1978-1986 North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Certification Board in recognition and appreciation of his dedication to promoting quality in the field of substance abuse services and his contributions as chairman of both this and the original NC Drug Abuse Professional Certification Board Member.
  • 1975-1982 The Cape Fear Substance Abuse Center, Inc. Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Service to the Community in the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Abuse.

While his achievements and accolades are numerous, what should also be remembered about Worth is his ability to tell a good joke or story on himself and his kindness toward others. He was devoted to his wife and being able to spend time with their daughter and granddaughter gave him great pleasure.

He will be sorely missed by his family, friends, and colleagues.