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Salt Lake City - Thousands of Utahns are in need of substance abuse treatment. “There is a growing recognition that substance abuse and dependence is a disease – a disease of the brain,” said Patrick Fleming, director of the Salt Lake County Division of Substance Abuse Services. But finding a nearby treatment facility, even a licensed substance abuse counselor, can be extremely challenging for individuals in more rural parts of the state.

“The need for more treatment, in combination with the increased science that guides treatment practices, creates a growing need for professionally trained treatment staff,” said Dr. Joel Millard, executive director of Project Reality. The University of Utah College of Social Work and the Mountain West Addiction Technology Transfer Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, may have found a way to address the situation.

Recognizing the need for licensed substance abuse counselors in all parts of the state, and sensitive to both the geographic and financial constraints of individuals living in rural areas, the University of Utah College of Social Work recently contracted with the University of Nevada, Reno, to offer new online courses and field placements that satisfy the educational and internship requirements for licensure as a substance abuse counselor in Utah.

“The online program will provide a solid knowledge base for people in rural parts of the state,” said Farriña Coulam, the director of Professional and Community Education at the University of Utah College of Social Work. “Through a series of eight courses spanning four semesters, they will learn about the addiction process, pharmacology, recovery, and develop treatment skills.”

For many years the College of Social Work at the University of Utah has been the only place in the state where aspiring substance abuse counselors could be trained. The onsite Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Training Program at the college will continue to train individuals onsite, but the new Online Substance Abuse Treatment Training Program will allow men and women in all parts of the state to receive the required education and supervision necessary to become licensed and to serve their communities.

“The addition of the online program to the onsite training that the University already offers will provide a welcome expansion of accessibility to training for individuals across the state,” said Millard. “It is very exciting to see this happen in Utah.”

“We must continue to encourage people to enter the profession of substance abuse counseling,” said Fleming. “The University of Utah’s new on-line substance abuse treatment training program will allow us to reach more individuals who want to enter the profession – a profession where you can really make a difference.”


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