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SIU receives a grant to train substance abuse counselors

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) is addressing the critical shortage of certified alcohol and drug counselors by training and fully funding the education of new professionals. This initiative is part of a new state program backed by a $3 million grant to eight Illinois institutions, including SIU, to recruit and train substance use counselors. SIU received $186,000 for the initial phase and stands out as the only university outside the Chicago metropolitan area involved in the program.

Jane Nichols, associate professor and director emerita of SIU's Counseling and Rehabilitation Education (CARE) program, highlights the program's importance in a region severely impacted by substance use disorders. The grant covers various costs, including tuition and internship stipends, and supports job placement and continuing education. The program aims to alleviate financial barriers, enabling students to focus on their studies and future careers.

Students like Mikaylah Rodriguez and Kierra Greer benefit significantly from the grant, finding it crucial for their educational and professional development.

" This grant has been a huge blessing, Because of the funding, I don't have to stress about affording tuition and the necessary materials for classes, which frees up time and mental resources that I can now put toward my classes," said Rodriguez.

Greer added, "I'm interested in becoming a CADC to give hope to those who are feeling like there's no way out of their addiction."

Both are committed to using their training to help individuals struggling with addiction, particularly within the criminal justice system and community-based support programs.

The program, overseen by Nichols with assistance from Yancy Cruz-Virella, offers an accredited substance use disorders and behavioral addiction certificate, preparing students for their Illinois Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CADC) credentials. "This grant provides financial as well as social support toward helping me reach my educational goals," said Greer. Starting fall 2025, all didactic courses will be available online, making the program more accessible.


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