California Awards $23.3 Million for Students to Become Substance Use Disorder Counselors 

  • Earn and Learn Training Program pays students to earn their substance use disorder counselor certification, helping to boost California’s health care workforce

  • Students will receive specialized education in addiction treatment and counseling

  • $23.3 million in grants will be issued to six treatment providers statewide

SACRAMENTO — In its continued effort to combat the opioid epidemic and all substance use disorders, California has awarded $23.3 million in grants for a new program designed to support students who want to become substance use disorder (SUD) counselors with paid on-the-job training. The SUD Earn and Learn program provides students with specialized education in addiction treatment and counseling, and hands-on experience working with clients in a supervised setting.

“The opioid epidemic is having devastating impacts in communities all throughout our country,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “California has a comprehensive approach to save lives and tackle the opioid crisis, but there is more work to do. With this program, we’re preparing our future workforce to treat and care for people suffering from substance use disorders with empathy and compassion.”

WHY THIS MATTERS: The SUD Earn and Learn program, administered by the Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI), will use the earn and learn concept to provide students with funds so they do not have to get multiple jobs just to afford basic needs while pursuing a career that will benefit the state’s communities.

“Through this program, students will have the opportunity to work with real clients and to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned in a real-world setting,” said California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “This will not only help students to become better counselors, but it will also provide them with a unique perspective on the challenges and rewards of working in this field.”

With a growing demand for SUD services and an ongoing workforce crisis, this program breaks down the barriers to entry that make it difficult for an individual to become a certified SUD counselor. The program also allows providers to offer paid time for schooling activities, cover costs of certification incentive programs for educational instructors and SUD experience mentors, and offer career placement bonuses.

“We are excited to support students with paid job experience while they work to become certified substance use counselors.” said HCAI Director Elizabeth Landsberg.  “We are training and preparing a new generation of diverse substance use disorder counselors with lived experience to meet this moment and respond to the epidemic of substance use by young people.”

BACKGROUND: In addition to grants for training organizations, HCAI funds student scholarships, loan repayment, and organizational grants to mentor and support a growing health workforce. This grant program is supported by the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) from the 2023 Budget Act. The $4.7 billion CYBHI program, the anchor of the Governor’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, aims to transform California’s health and human services system to a system where all Californians can access services for emerging and existing behavioral health needs, regardless of health payer.

See the list of awardees on the HCAI website.