MORRISTOWN, NJ  – Building upon his efforts to explore all avenues in the fight against drug addiction, Governor Chris Christie met with case managers and support staff at Homeless Solutions in Morristown to discuss an innovative approach to increasing the number of skilled drug counselors in the state.  The employees are currently participating in a 45-week, state-funded, on-site drug counseling certification program and company-paid apprenticeship.

“In order to combat the opioid epidemic, we need more qualified professionals who have the ability to understand and help those who are in need to navigate the complex addiction recovery process,” Governor Christie said. “The drug counseling certification program at Homeless Solutions will give staff on the front lines critical skills where they are desperately needed. These counselors will immediately be armed with the knowledge they need to assist clients in need of drug rehabilitation, helping to save lives.”

Ten Homeless Solutions employees are participating in the program, funded through a New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) grant to Rutgers University, which has been designated the department’s Health Care Talent Development Center (TDC). To be certified as a drug counselor, each participant must complete 3,100 hours of training and pass a state licensing examination. The course is expected to conclude in February 2018, with participants receiving the training at the shelter during their work day. Homeless Solutions is also providing participants with a paid apprenticeship.

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Homeless Solutions CEO Dan McGuire explained that with the new integrated approach, better outcomes lead to more turnover at Homeless Solutions, meaning they can help even more people. “In the last year, we had served more people than the year before, and the reason for that primarily is the success of our case management and our partners,” he said. “We only have 85 beds here. That never changes, so it’s not adding beds, its better results.”

“This innovative drug counseling apprenticeship program demonstrates how responsive the state can be to the needs of employers and will help prepare New Jersey’s workforce for this accelerated growth. Programs like these will serve as a model for other organizations seeking to improve the skills of their existing workforce,” said Labor Commissioner Aaron Fichtner, who joined the Governor at the roundtable. Homeless Solutions is a private, non-profit which operates an 85 bed shelter, a transitional housing program, and The Mt. Kemble Home, a program for senior women of limited means.