A new substance use minor from NMU could help address treatment workforce shortages in the UP

What’s happening: A unique partnership has formed to address a pressing problem in the Upper Peninsula. Substance use rates are higher in the U.P. as compared to other areas of the state, yet treatment options are much more difficult to find. That’s why Northern Michigan University has partnered with community organizations Lakes Recovery Centers Inc. and NorthCare Network to develop a new substance use academic minor set to launch this fall semester.

What it is: The 20-credit minor prepares students to apply for a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor credential through the Michigan Certification Board for Addiction Professionals (MCBAP), which will also require 300 education/training hours, supervised work experience, and several other tasks. The program could be especially relevant to those students pursuing careers in the social work, psychology, community health, medicine, and criminal justice fields.

Why it’s important: “This program helps students meet all of their educational requirements, which has historically been the hardest part for people living in the Upper Peninsula. We don't have access to the training that is available in the more populated areas of the state,” says Elissa Kent, an NMU social work instructor. Kent was instrumental in preparing course content and researching requirements for additional certifications. “A lot of people in the U.P. have really been at a strategic disadvantage when working in the field and trying to work toward one of these credentials, because you just don't have access.”

Teamwork: The interdisciplinary minor was developed by NMU's Center for Rural Health, Social Work Department, the School of Nursing, and the School of Health and Human Performance, along with Great Lakes Recovery Centers Inc. and NorthCare Network. Greg Toutant, CEO of Great Lakes Recovery Centers and an NMU alumnus, is credited with starting the conversations that led to the partnership and resulting minor.

What they’re saying: “Fewer people are going to have to fund their own travel and other expenses trying to get to training opportunities downstate and in Wisconsin,” Kent says. “The hope is that students can declare this minor and have met all of the educational requirements here, and hopefully really boost the workforce for the substance use treatment field in the Upper Peninsula.”

More information about the substance use minor is available online.
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