The Upper Peninsula has higher rates of substance use than most areas in the state, yet by virtue of its population, a smaller workforce to adequately treat individuals struggling with related disorders. To address that gap, Northern Michigan University will offer a new substance use academic minor this fall. Students who successfully complete the program will meet all of the educational requirements to apply for a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor credential through the Michigan Certification Board for Addiction Professionals (MCBAP).
In order to fully obtain the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor credential, a person must complete 300 education/training hours, supervised work experience and several other tasks.
“In the Upper Peninsula, people working toward obtaining these credentials have had an enormous disadvantage in that there are far fewer educational opportunities available in rural areas,” said Elissa Kent, an NMU social work instructor who was instrumental in preparing course content and researching requirements for additional certifications. “That has left U.P. workers having to travel to more populous places, often funding their own travel and transportation. As a result, the substance use disorder treatment workforce in the Upper Peninsula has much more difficulty than highly populated places in meeting the requirements needed to obtain the credential.”
The interdisciplinary, 20-credit minor focuses on approaches to explain, prevent and treat substance use disorders in the United States. It is particularly relevant for students pursuing careers in the fields social work, psychology, community health, medicine and criminal justice.
The program has been a collaborative effort involving NMU's Center for Rural Health, Social Work Department, the School of Nursing and the School of Health and Human Performance, along with community entities Great Lakes Recovery Centers Inc. and NorthCare Network.
NMU alumnus Greg Toutant is CEO of Great Lakes Recovery Centers, a nonprofit specializing in substance abuse and mental health treatment for youth, families and adults in communities across the Upper Peninsula. He reached out to the NMU Center for Rural Health for an initial conversation about the topic in August 2020.
“It has been great to work with the NMU Center for Rural Health in bringing back to NMU the minor degree program that will better prepare students entering the addiction treatment field with specialized course work matched with real-world practicum experiences in community-based settings,” Toutant said. “As a treatment provider, this unique minor will have a significant impact on the cultivation of the workforce in the U.P. and throughout the state, and will have far-reaching implications on the quality of care provided in treatment settings.”
“From my perspective, I am absolutely thrilled to have been provided the opportunity to initially convene partners to begin this discussion,” added Elise Bur, director of NMU Center for Rural Health. “This minor is a result of the passion and drive that the partners possess to continue improving awareness, education and access to quality, healthcare, substance use treatment and recovery services.”
NorthCare Network, one of Michigan's 10 prepaid inpatient health plans, covers the Upper Peninsula region. It provides a comprehensive array of specialty mental health and substance abuse services. NorthCare contributed financial support for some of the course work and curriculum development related to the new substance use minor at NMU.
“The initiative to establish a substance use minor at Northern Michigan University is an essential element to support workforce development and capacity building to meet the needs of Upper Peninsula residents seeking services,” said Judi Brugman, NorthCare's director of substance abuse prevention and treatment. “It will allow additional substance use program development throughout the region and sustain current programming.”
Students will earn 12-19 credits from the following core courses: drugs, crime and the justice system; drug use and abuse; psychopharmacology; prevention of substance use disorders; and evaluation and treatment of substance use disorders. They will supplement with two to eight credits from several courses related to substance use.
For more information on the program, visit nmu.edu/bulletin/substance-use-minor.