Rutgers gets $1.3M for drug counselor program

Rutgers University has been awarded $1.3 million to launch an apprenticeship program for Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors, filling a critical need in the health care system. Gov. Chris Christie announced the program Tuesday along with Rutgers President Robert Barchi and state Department of Labor Commissioner Aaron Fichtner.

The apprenticeship, slated for 220 candidates, will include 270 hours of free instruction at Rutgers and 3,100 hours of paid on-the-job training with a participating health care employer in 2018.

It expands on a pilot program launched by Christie in the summer, and is an expansion on recent apprenticeship programs at the university.

Rutgers is touting it as the nation’s first apprenticeship program for drug counselors, as it is the first one recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. But other state-level programs exist in Vermont and Pennsylvania.

The program will help fill a critical labor gap in the state, especially in light of the fast-paced changes while dealing with the opioid crisis.

“From research to treatment to recovery, Rutgers is engaged in the fight against opioid addiction on many fronts, and we are gratified that the state of New Jersey is now calling on our expertise to provide innovative training for critically needed Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors,” Rutgers President Robert Barchi said.

In a statement Tuesday, Rutgers outlined the areas of education for apprentices: the science of addiction; counseling techniques; crisis intervention; case management; addiction recovery; and related topics, while mastering the 45 state-mandated core competencies.

Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations Healthcare Talent Development Center will specifically be the recipient of the funding. The Rutgers Center for Alcohol Studies, Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare and the Wellspring Center for Prevention will assist with training and hiring.

“A registered apprenticeship is structured to provide clear benchmarks and more rigorous oversight than other training models, which leads to better outcomes,” said Dr. Padma Arvind, professor of professional practice and executive director of the New Jersey Healthcare Talent Development Center at Rutgers SMLR.

“Our apprentices will learn to spot the warning signs of addiction and provide frontline counseling services to individuals in need of treatment.”

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has awarded more than $4 million in grants to Rutgers SMLR in 2017 to create and administer a diverse set of health care apprenticeships, including:

  • $1.3 million for the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor apprenticeship program;
  • $1.2 million to renew the New Jersey Healthcare Talent Development Center, training community health workers, certified home health aides, certified nursing assistants, medical lab technicians and paramedics;
  • $1.2 million to create the New Jersey Life Sciences Talent Development Center, training drug safety/pharmacovigilance specialists, lab technicians, clinical lab technicians, clinical research assistants and dental lab technicians — including a new Digital Dentistry Certificate offered in partnership with the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences;
  • $300,00 to provide specialized training that will enable certified nursing assistants to become licensed practical nurses and registered nurses; and
  • $250,000 to support the New Jersey Healthcare Talent Network, which helps to identify and fill workforce gaps within the state’s health care industry.