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Department of Social Work receives $1.35 million Opioid Workforce Expansion Program grant

Western Carolina University’s Department of Social Work recently received an Opioid Workforce Expansion Program grant through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

WCU is one of 48 institutions nationally, and among five in North Carolina, to receive the grant. It is a three-year award totaling $1.35 million. The focus of the grant is to train master's-level students to work with prevention, treatment and recovery from addictive disorders, said Beth Young, assistant professor of social work and WCU’s Substance Abuse Studies Certificate Program coordinator. It also allows for training students, faculty, staff, community members and current providers on addictive disorder prevention, treatment and recovery.

The purpose of the Opioid Workforce Expansion Program is to enhance community-based experiential training for students who are preparing to become behavioral health professionals, with a focus on opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders prevention, treatment and recovery services.

Young said the grant will help expand WCU’s Substance Abuse Studies Certificate Program, which provides students with 180 hours of substance use specific education and a 672-hour internship in a substance use service setting with clinical supervision, and allows students to become fully licensed clinical addictions specialists one year after graduation from the master of social work or master of clinical health counseling programs.

"As a previous HRSA grant recipient, the acquisition of this grant speaks not only to the reputation of WCU's Department of Social Work, but also to the community partnerships we have," Young said. "Through this grant, we will be able to train graduate-level students to work in areas of prevention, education and treatment of addictive disorders, specifically in the seven western counties. The hope is to increase providers in these underserved areas and positively impact access to treatment."

The grant comes as WCU is gearing up to host a town hall Thursday, Oct. 3, on the national opioid and addiction crisis. The free event is a partnership between WCU’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise and the Jackson County Community Foundation.

Advanced registration is required by Monday, Sept. 30. To register or for more information about the town hall, visit

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