September 04. 2018 8:45PM

Rivier Univ. sees opportunity in training addiction recovery professionals

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA — As New Hampshire continues to tackle the opioid crisis, a local university is preparing the next generation of graduates to help those who will need treatment and recovery.

Rivier University is adding a new program to produce professionals trained to assist with drug recovery services, counseling and more.

In 2017 there were 37 fatal drug overdoses reported in the Gate City, and according to a 2018 National Institute on Drug Abuse Report, New Hampshire has the second-highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in the nation.

Sister Paula Marie Buley, president of Rivier University, is stressing the need for a workforce that is dedicated to helping these individuals battle opioid addiction.

“Rivier is uniquely positioned to support the increased demand for behavioral health professionals in our region and beyond,” Buley said in a statement.

To address the shortage of addiction treatment and recovery service professionals in the state, Rivier University has added a new substance use disorders track option to its bachelor of arts in psychology degree.

According to Buley, the substance use disorder track will prepare professionals for careers in counseling, recovery services, advocacy and public health.

“By building the workforce, we can ultimately contribute to improving the quality of life of citizens throughout our state and the region,” she said in a release.

The new offering at Rivier University paves the way for students to become licensed alcohol and drug counselors, with courses that study the ethical treatment and rehabilitation of those suffering with substance use disorders, the physical and behavioral effects of drug use, psychological disorders, counseling theory and more.

“Students will learn evidence-based, current practices in the diagnosis, assessment and treatment planning of substance use disorders, while considering the influence of family, community and culture,” Elizabeth Harwood, assistant professor of psychology and department coordinator at Rivier, said in a statement.

According to Harwood, each person with a substance use disorder has a unique story, and Rivier’s new program will help students provide an individualized approach to treatment and recovery.

The city is also taking steps to expand the workforce and help addicts. Nashua is partnering with Revive Recovery Center in an effort to establish more peer recovery coaches for people struggling with substance misuse in the Nashua region.

Mayor Jim Donchess previously formed a Nashua Task Force on Substance Use Prevention, Treatment and Recovery with a mission of reducing the number of substance-related deaths.

In addition, the city employs a licensed alcohol and drug counselor who is working with volunteer recovery coaches to help those individuals provide critical services to Nashua residents in need.