PISCATAWAY, NJ - Solutions to the state's opiod crisis has landed in the lap of Rutgers University. The university's New Jersey Healthcare Development Center is being armed with $1.3 million to launch a statewide Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor apprenticeship program, in the latest effort to battle opiod addiction.
With the state grant, the healthcare talent development center, operated out of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, will be able to train and certify 200 counselors during 2018.
The program will require hundreds of hours of coursework and thousands of hours of field training. Once completed, counselors will be able to bring their expertise to addiction treatment centers, hospitals and community healthcare centers across the state.
State and university officials announced the move at a press conference on December 12 in the Livingston Student Center at one of Rutgers University's campuses in Piscataway.
“From research to treatment to recovery, Rutgers is engaged in the fight against opioid addiction on many fronts,” Rutgers President Robert Barchi said.
To that end, Barchi highlighted the different addiction treatment programs the university has already put in place.
They include a 24/7 addiction hotline run by the behavioral healthcare program, programs with the Center for Alcohol Studies to train police officers on how to handle addiction issues head-on, and the recovery house, which allows students to pursue both their degree and addiction recovery at the same time.
The apprenticeship will consist of 270 hours of free classroom instruction at Rutgers, according to university officials, on top of 3,100 hours of paid on-the-job training with a partnering healthcare employer.
Counselors-in-training will learn topics such as the science of addiction, crisis intervention and case management, all while mastering the 45 state-mandated core competencies.
“Our apprentices will learn to spot the warning signs of addiction and provide frontline counseling services to individuals in need of treatment,” said Dr. Padma Arvind, who directs the healthcare talent development center.
Arvind has directed the healthcare talent development center since it was started as a pilot program in July 2017, during which it provided funding for certification training to 10 case managers at Homeless Solutions in Morristown and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Counties.
While Arvind oversaw the program, her 10 staff training roughly 1,500 apprentices to become certified counselors.
Some of the people who’ve come through the program put tears to her eyes, Arvind admitted. A few were in mental institutions because of mental health or substance abuse issues, only to bounce back and work full-time as counselors.
Over the course of 2017, Rutgers received more than $4 million in grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, including the grant announced in December.
Earlier in the year, the state provided another $1.2 million grant to training program's at the healthcare talent development center, and a $1.2 million grant to training at the New Jersey Life Sciences Talent Development Center.