SARANAC LAKE - A local college has received more than $20,000 in stimulus funds to train students for careers in the addictions field.
The state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services announced the release of $500,000 acquired through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Nov. 27.
Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo is commissioner of the Substance Abuse Services office. She said addictions counseling is among the top 10 fastest growing occupations in the country.
"There is a critical shortage of addictions counselors," she said in a prepared statement. "There's great demand by employers to hire individuals with this valuable credential."
On Nov. 30, North Country Community College received $20,590 in stimulus funds to provide free tuition to students interested in pursuing a career in addictions counseling.
The funds cover a comprehensive 350-hour educational program that includes: an unpaid internship; career counseling and job placement services; aid in acquiring and completing a credentialing application.
Joe Keegan is interim vice president for Academic Affairs at NCCC. He said the partnership with the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services is invaluable.
"Given the rural nature of our service area and the economic challenges that we face, regardless of a recession, awards like this have a significant impact in helping our community members take those first steps into higher education," Keegan said.
He added that the students affected most by the stimulus funds are the individuals who may not have had the opportunity to pursue higher educations beforehand.
Keegan also noted that the state's resources are stretched thin, and any extra financial aid helps.
"The stimulus funds provide another avenue in helping students access higher education," he said. "Community colleges are on the front line of educating the next generation of addiction professionals."
Keegan says the funding will also help increase the size of future classes and aid in student retention as well.
"That leads to positive results for the field and those we serve," he said.
Upon completion of the 350-hour course, students can apply for the Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor Trainee certificate. Those individuals are counted among the Qualified Health Professionals necessary to run state-certified chemical dependence treatment programs.
Commissioner Carpenter-Palumbo says trainees are in great demand in addictions fields and highly employable.